This Week in HIV Research: Cognitive Deficits; Vitamin D Deficiency; and Average Age of HIV Deaths

This week, a study reports that older individuals living with HIV who scored normally based on standard neuropsychology tests had cognitive deficits that were revealed by brain scans. Another study looks at vitamin D deficiency and how it may lower immune recovery of people living with HIV. Plus, women in the U.S. die younger than men from HIV, although just barely, based on the latest data.

To beat HIV, you have to follow the science!


Brain Scans Reveal Cognitive Deficits in Older Cognitively Normal HIV-Positive Individuals

Although a group of HIV-positive individuals over 50 had "cognitively normal" scores based on standard neuropsychology testing, brain scans revealed cognitive deficits compared to age-matched controls, according to a study published in the journal AIDS Care.

The study highlights the growing concern of HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND). Previous studies suggest that about 30% to 60% of people living with HIV are affected by HAND, said lead study author Xiong Jiang, Ph.D., according to the study press release.

Study participants were asked to complete and switch between simple tasks, such as judging the gender of a face or meaning of a word, while being scanned by a functional MRI (fMRI). The HIV-positive participants were significantly slower in adjusting to task switches, which is correlated with dysfunction in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, a key region of the brain, according to the press release.

In the Clinic

Vitamin D Deficiency May Limit Immune Recovery in HIV-Positive Adults

Having low levels of vitamin D may lower the effectiveness of HIV treatment, according to a study from the University of Georgia, which followed 398 HIV-positive individuals for 18 months.

The researchers found that participants with sufficient levels of vitamin D had a higher CD4+ cell count, by an average of 65, than those with a vitamin D deficiency, according to the study press release.

"Vitamin-D supplementation may improve CD4+ T-cell recovery during [highly active antiretroviral therapy]," the researchers concluded. However, they called for future studies to further evaluate the effectiveness of vitamin D supplementation with antiretroviral therapy.

Women Die Younger Than Men From HIV in U.S. (Infographic)

An infographic from Scientific American shows that the average age of death for HIV-positive women continues to be lower than that of HIV-positive men, based on 1987-2013 data recently published by the National Vital Statistics System.

The average age of death for both genders continues to steadily increase since 1987, and the gap between HIV-positive men and women was smaller in 2013. The average age of death for both genders was around 50 years old in 2013 -- though that does not indicate life expectancy.

HIV Awareness

Five Ways to Stay Strong: How Charlie Sheen's Disclosure Affects People Living With HIV

Whether you work in HIV or not, you've no doubt heard about Charlie Sheen's HIV disclosure, which made many headlines across news and social media, but also came with a reminder that HIV stigma persists.

"This story is, in many ways, an opportunity to correct mistaken beliefs about the virus," writes David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W.

In this blog entry, Fawcett shares five ways for people living with HIV to proactively manage the feelings of stigma and turn this story into a teachable moment.

Is there a development this week in HIV research that you think we missed? Send us a tip!