The cerebral manifestations of HIV infection remain an issue of concern in the everyday practice of medicine. Despite current widespread access to antiretroviral therapy, a large percentage of chronically infected persons living with HIV exhibit neurocognitive disorders.
Given that the population of people living with HIV is aging, it is expected that age-related pathologies will increase in this collective as well. Such pathologies can include a wide range of malignancies, including oncologic, metabolic, and bone complications, but also brain disorders.
These disorders are linked to a poorer quality of life, worse daily functioning, higher rates of unemployment, greater use of health system resources and diminished adherence to combination antiretroviral therapy. Therefore, their detection, prevention and treatment has become a major research priority in the HIV field. In this regard, although some early detection methods for neurocognitive disorders for HIV patients have already been proposed, none has yet managed to consolidate in routine clinical practice.
Now, members of the psychology team at the Fight AIDS Foundation publish a study including more than 350 patients that validates a method called NEU Screen, which they developed some time ago. This test, that can be used to detect cognitive impairment in day-to-day clinical practice, has been proved to be highly accurate, especially in patients over 60 years old, and can be used in a fast and accessible manner.
NEU Screen is a practical, short and accessible method: the time required to apply this instrument is less than 10 minutes and it is a paper-based test. People living with HIV are asked to develop certain tasks to measure information processing speed, executive functioning and verbal fluency. After completing this process, each patient gets a score that establishes if an impairment is suspected or not.
According to Jose Muñoz-Moreno, psychologist at the Fight AIDS Foundation and coordinator of the study: “A method for the rapid detection of brain problems such as NEU Screen satisfies an urgent need in the current clinical context of HI /AIDS infection.”