Learning and Memory in Children and Adolescents With Perinatal HIV Infection and Perinatal HIV Exposure

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Learning and memory in youth with perinatally acquired HIV (PHIV) are poorly understood, despite their importance for academic, healthcare and daily functioning.


PHIV (n = 173) and perinatally HIV-exposed but uninfected (PHEU, n = 85) participants (aged 9–19 years) in a substudy of the Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study completed age-standardized tests of verbal and visual learning and delayed memory. Linear regression models implemented via generalized estimating equations were used to compare memory measures in PHEU participants versus PHIV youth with and without Centers for Disease Control and Prevention class C diagnosis (PHIV-C, n = 45 and PHIV–non-C, n = 128, respectively), adjusting for sociodemographic covariates.


Participants (mean age = 14.10 years) were 54% female, 75% Black and 18% Hispanic. Although unadjusted analyses showed significantly lower visual recognition memory and verbal delayed recall for PHIV-C compared with PHEU participants and lower verbal learning for PHIV-C and non-C groups compared with PHEU, differences persisted only for visual recognition memory after adjusting for sociodemographic covariates. For PHIV youth, current CD4% <25 was associated with poorer verbal learning, and older age at peak viral load was associated with poorer verbal delayed recall and design memory.


Youth with PHIV, particularly those with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention class C diagnosis, showed poorer performance on some measures of learning and memory compared with PHEU. Although group differences in verbal memory were largely attributable to sociodemographic characteristics, associations of class C diagnosis with poorer visual recognition memory and of current CD4% with poorer verbal learning suggest subtle effects of HIV on learning and memory in youth with PHIV.

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