Background: Little is known regarding effects of perinatally acquired HIV infection (PHIV) on longitudinal change in memory and executive functioning (EF) during adolescence despite the importance of these skills for independence in adulthood.
Methods: PHIV (n = 144) and perinatally HIV-exposed uninfected youth (PHEU, n = 79), ages 12-17, completed standardized tests of memory and EF at baseline and 2 years later. Changes from baseline for each memory and EF outcome were compared between PHEU and PHIV youth with (PHIV/C, n = 39) and without (PHIV/non-C, n = 105) history of CDC class C (AIDS-defining) diagnoses. Among PHIV youth, associations of baseline and past disease severity with memory and EF performance at follow-up were evaluated using adjusted linear regression models.
Results: Participants were primarily black (79%); 16% were Hispanic; 55% were female. Mean memory and EF scores at follow-up generally fell in the low-average to average range. Pairwise comparison of adjusted mean change from baseline to follow-up revealed significantly greater change for PHIV/non-C compared with PHEU youth in only one verbal recognition task, with a difference in mean changes for PHIV/non-C versus PHEU of -0.99 (95% CI: -1.80 to -0.19; P = 0.02). Among youth with PHIV, better immunologic status at baseline was positively associated with follow-up measures of verbal recall and recognition and cognitive inhibition/flexibility. Past AIDS-defining diagnoses and higher peak viral load were associated with lower performance across multiple EF tasks at follow-up.
Conclusions: Youth with PHIV demonstrated stable memory and EF during a 2-year period of adolescence, allowing cautious optimism regarding long-term outcomes.