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J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2013 Dec;8(5):1051-4.

More than two HANDs to tango.


Developing a validated tool for the rapid and efficient assessment of cognitive functioning in HIV-infected patients in a typical outpatient clinical setting has been an unmet goal of HIV research since the recognition of the syndrome of HIV-associated dementia (HAD) nearly 20 years ago. In this issue of JNIP Cross et al. report the application of the International HIV Dementia Scale (IHDS) in a U.S.-based urban outpatient clinic to evaluate its utility as a substitute for the more time- and effort-demanding formalized testing criteria known as the Frascati criteria that was developed in 2007 to define the syndrome of HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND). In this study an unselected cohort of 507 individuals (68 % African American) that were assessed using the IHDS in a cross-sectional study revealed a 41 % prevalence of cognitive impairment (labeled ‘symptomatic HAND’) that was associated with African American race, older age, unemployment, education level, and depression. While the associations between cognitive impairment and older age, education, unemployment status and depression in HIV-infected patients are not surprising, the association with African American ancestry and cognitive impairment in the setting of HIV infection is a novel finding of this study. This commentary discusses several important issues raised by the study, including the pitfalls of assessing cognitive functioning with rapid screening tools, cognitive testing criteria, normative testing control groups, accounting for HAND co-morbidity factors, considerations for clinical trials assessing HAND, and selective population vulnerability to HAND.

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