As more effective antiretroviral therapy has evolved over the past 30 years, HIV/AIDS has shifted from an acute to a chronic condition. But as patients live longer, research indicates that they are experiencing cognitive impairments at a higher rate than people without the disease.
A new study by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, published online Oct. 15, 2012 in the Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, shows that cognitive training exercises can help — improving mental processing speed and the ability to complete daily tasks in middle-age and older adults with HIV.
“Today, more than 25 percent of people living with HIV in the United States are older than 50,” says the study’s lead author, David Vance, Ph.D., associate professor in the UAB School of Nursing, associate director of the UAB Center for Nursing Research and scientist in the UAB Edward R. Roybal Center for Research on Applied Gerontology. “Thirty to 60 percent of adults living with HIV experience cognitive problems at some point in the illness, a condition known as ‘HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders.’ It’s imperative for people with HIV and their treatment teams be proactive in addressing cognitive problems as they emerge, because without treatment these issues — which mimic premature aging — can lead to difficulties in working and living independently.”
I’m off to Fairmont Hot Springs for the next two days to do some specialized training for HIV testers about the particular needs of an often stigmatized part of the Montana population, MSM (Men who have sex with men- not all define themselves as gay or bi) and IDU (users of IV drugs).
These populations aren’t necessarily the same- or different, either, but we’re doing a day for each to get testers better acquainted with their needs. This involves a lot of work around withholding judgment and helping to reduce risky behaviors while playing to the strengths of the client.
Our job is to raise awareness, reduce risky behavior, get those most at risk for HIV in to testing- and if they test positive, to ensure they get into care.
If you have a minute today, think about us, and breathe a prayer for success.