Source: website of the AIDS Interdisciplinary Spanish Society (SEISIDA)
Memory loss and concentration problems are some of the main complaints that nearly 50% of people with HIV who are receiving antiretroviral therapy present and that, somehow, interfere with their daily life. This is one of the main conclusions of one of the few studies conducted in Spain with such a large sample, both nationally and internationally, on perceived cognitive symptoms in people with HIV on treatment.
The relevance of this work, published in "Medicia Clínica" and conducted by SEISIDA, in collaboration with the Fight AIDS Foundation (FLS) and the Distance Education University (UNED), is that cognitive health affects the control of HIV infection. "A good cognitive health contributes positively to disease control," said Maria Jose Fuster, co-coordinator of the study. However, the onset of cognitive impairment is associated with a "poorer quality of life, increased depression symptoms existance or incorrect adherence to antiretroviral therapy." It is known that people who report cognitive complaints typically have a poorer psychological health and quality of life, and poorer immune status.
Another problem, says José Antonio Muñoz-Moreno of the FLS, is that it is difficult to determine "what is the cause and which the consequence" because it's about "bidirectional"relationships and, therefore, it is difficult to identify "whether the cognitive alteration is a cause or a consequence of the effect of living with HIV." Because of the fact that cognitive complaint is related to depression, Munoz-Moreno adds "we think that it is essential to intervene in the mood for improvement."
Moreover, experts say that psychological intervention is "basic for mental improvement". And besides, if we consider that a large portion of patients with cognitive complaints-more than 50% - has a central nervous system disorder, we should think about interventions in these situations. In any case, an overall health intervention, in an integrated way, and evaluating both the physical and psychological state, is the most optimal methodology to reach the overall health of the person. "
This was one of the goals of the study: to identify a profile of someone with HIV more likely to have cognitive complaints. According to the results, "those with worse psychological status, older, who do not maintain a relationship, and poorer educational attainment, are more likely to complain".
To identify symptoms
Cognitive problems in people with HIV have not been very studied in Spain. Although there were some data, Muñoz-Moreno believes that "this is the first study to evaluate the prevalence of cognitive complaints in such a large sample of people with HIV." In his opinion, providing any information about the existence of cognitive symptoms and/or variables related to these complaints is "necessary". In addition, he says, "to know about the demographic, clinical and psychological needs of people with cognitive complaints allows us to identify those with physical problems. As a result, he notes, you can reach early diagnosis of nervous system complications, or in other levels. "
The study was carried out in 4 Spanish hospitals and 10 NGOs and 719 people participated. Results are also important because, since there is no treatment for these complaints, "medical professionals must be alert to predict in advance HIV-associated co-morbidities," said Fuster. In fact, for this expert, data obtained motivates promoting "interventions focused on improving clinical and psychological health of the person with HIV." For Muñoz-Moreno, "studies like this help to promote a broader clinical focus on problems that can coexist with HIV that, so far, have not been studied with enough attention; this study will make it possible to discover new strategies focused on improving the quality of life of people living with HIV."