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AIDS Patient Care STDS. 2011 Oct;25(10):587-93. doi: 10.1089/apc.2011.0154. Epub 2011 Sep 15.

Screening for HIV-associated dementia in South Africa: potentials and pitfalls of task-shifting.

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HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies, Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Center, New York, New York 10032, USA.


There is an urgent need for valid, reliable, and simple-to-use screening tools for HIV-associated dementia (HAD) in South Africa, as little is known about its impact on South Africa's 5.5 million people living with HIV (PLWH). Screening for HAD in South Africa involves several challenges, including few culturally appropriate and validated screening tools, and a shortage of trained personnel to conduct screening. This study examined rates of positive HAD screens as determined by the cutoff score on the International HIV Dementia Scale (IHDS) administered by nonspecialist community health workers (CHWs) in South Africa and examined associations between positive HAD screens and common risk factors for HAD. Sixty-five Xhosa-speaking HIV-positive individuals on antiretroviral therapy (ART) with low CD4 counts and documented ART adherence problems were administered a battery of demographic, psychiatric and neurocognitive screening measures. Positive HAD screens were present in 80% of the sample. Presence of a current alcohol dependence disorder and CD4 counts of 200 or lower were significantly associated with positive HAD screens. HIV-positive South Africans on ART with low CD4 counts and ART adherence problems may be at a very high risk for HAD, highlighting the need for more routine screening and monitoring of neurocognitive functions among South Africa's millions of PLWH on ART. Future research is needed to: (1) validate IHDS performance against a gold standard neurocognitive battery for the detection of HAD among larger samples of Xhosa-speaking South Africans with ART adherence difficulties and (2) compare performance of CHW to expert health care personnel in administering the IHDS.

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