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HIV treatment delay could affect brain function

Category: Infectious Diseases

Study shows HIV treatment helps cognitive function

A new study has shown that delaying treatment for HIV could lead to neurocognitive issues. These problems affect motor and processing skills in the brain that treatments can help reduce. The five-year study was published by the National AIDS Research Institute based in Pune, India, along with the HIV Neurobehavioral Research Program at the University of California, San Diego.

Brain function
Approximately half of those diagnosed with HIV from STD testing experience some issues with brain function if left untreated. For some it can be problems with motor skills, while others may experience memory and information processing issues. These conditions are symptoms of HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder. These brain function issues can result in psychological distress for HIV patients. People with these problems in cognitive function may even have difficulty performing simple household tasks, according to the study.

"The routine activities of HIV-infected people may get affected if they have neurocognitive impairment. In milder forms, it may be prominent only while performing complex tasks like calculations and multitasking. But it is pronounced in severe forms like dementia and patients may have difficulty even in performing routine daily activities like cooking, bathing and walking," researcher Manisha Ghate, co-principal investigator of the study, told the Times of India.

These cognitive problems can make it difficult for those with positive results from STD diagnosis tests to continue working while undergoing treatment.

Researchers have recently been studying the connection between HIV and brain function. According to the Alzheimer's Society, the connection was often overlooked or misdiagnosed as depression tied to the diagnosis of the auto-immune disease in the past. Symptoms often include forgetfulness, issues with language, clumsiness, mood swings and others. These symptoms can often be mild and can go unnoticed. Since treatment has improved, these conditions have become significantly less prevalent than they once were.

HIV can affect the brain itself, but it can also allow opportunistic diseases and cancers to develop once the immune system has been weakened, according to the organization's website.

Treatment
Antiretroviral therapy has caused many people infected with HIV to live longer and have improved body and brain function during their lives. The study from NARI proved that administering treatment as soon as possible to HIV patients could improve cognitive function. Treatment can not only slow the regression of brain function, but may show progress.

Decline in brain function is common in people with and without HIV, but many younger people have been diagnosed with the disease. Treatment can allow them to live longer, more productive lives. The study found improvements in motor skills, executive functioning and learning for those undergoing ART as soon as possible. Avoiding or delaying treatment can lead to a faster decline in brain function for those diagnosed with HIV.

Testing
The results of the NARI study show how important it is to undergo lab tests for HIV and other STDs. Since brain function can depend on timely treatment, being aware of HIV status can help people live better. Discreet options for testing are available for those wishing to avoid a doctor or a clinic.

Anonymous STD testing can reveal HIV status as well as a panel of other diseases, including more common ones such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. While there is no cure for HIV, treatment can help to improve life quality. Many other STDs can be cured with antibiotics and other treatments.

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