We are exploring the impact of long-term HIV infection on the risk of developing difficulties with memory and concentration.

Because of the success of antiretroviral therapy, many HIV+ individuals are now reaching their 50s and 60s. There is growing concern that long-term HIV infection may increase the risk of developing degenerative brain diseases similar to Alzheimer’s disease as sufferers age.

Our research approaches

In conjunction with St Vincent’s Hospital and the University of New South Wales, NeuRA was involved in a study to better understand whether long-term HIV infection increases the risk of developing difficulties with memory and concentration in HIV+ individuals aged 45 years or older. This study paid particular attention to high cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease, as both are common in older people with HIV (as a result of advancing age, HIV disease itself and antiretroviral treatment) and are risk factors for developing dementia.

Additionally, NeuRA is part of an international taskforce dedicated to updating the classification of the neurocognitive complications from HIV.

Our research discoveries

NeuRA’s research has shown that 30-50 per cent of HIV people with undetectable viral load can still experience mild form neurocognitive difficulties despite being on successful HIV treatment. Around 15-30 per cent may slowly progress towards more serious neurocognitive problems across several years. The variance in prevalence is mostly associated with whether people with HIV experienced AIDS or not, and whether or not they were treated early.

Into the future, NeuRA is focused on producing the required epidemiological data for Australia to help form an adequate healthcare policy response. We will also continue to work with HIV community organisations to test a diverse set of interventions that we hope will benefit the neurocognitive health and emotional wellbeing of people living with HIV and ageing.