Among those with depression, some executive function is impaired in women living with HIV at three times the rate of men living with HIV, a study published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes showed. The study also found that such impairment was five times more common among HIV-positive women than HIV-negative women.
Researchers had 858 PLWH and 562 HIV-negative people living in the U.S. complete depression assessments, as well as tests measuring executive function, psychomotor speed, and motor function. Half of each group were women. Men were drawn from the MACS study, which includes only gay or bisexual men, while women came from the WIHS study, which includes mostly heterosexual women.
The researchers found that, among people living with HIV, more men than women showed depressive symptoms -- a relationship different from that seen in the general population. Other studies have shown that sexual minorities experience depression at greater rates, which might explain this result, study authors noted.
Independent of HIV status, depressed participants performed worse on executive function tests than those without depressive symptoms.
Study authors hypothesized that biological mechanisms -- or men's better access to mental health services -- may explain the sex difference observed among those living with HIV. They called for better psychological and psychiatric services for both men and women living with HIV.
This paper is the final, published version of a study that was initially presented at CROI 2019 and published ahead of print in March.