Aims: Older persons living with HIV (PLWH) and past alcohol use disorder (AUD) are at higher risk for neurocognitive deficits compared to those with either condition alone; however, factors underlying this relationship are unknown. Given that aging potentiates multi-system damage from alcohol misuse, the current study examined whether neurocognitive functioning among older adults relates to the age at which they last met criteria for AUD (i.e. 'age of last AUD'), and whether this relationship differed by HIV serostatus.
Methods: All participants (aged between 50 and 75 years) were grouped by HIV/AUD status: 345 HIV+/AUD+, 148 HIV-/AUD+, 273 HIV+/AUD-, and 206 HIV-/AUD-. Neurocognitive functioning was assessed globally and within seven domains. Among only the two AUD+ groups, multivariable linear regressions examined the interaction between age of last AUD and HIV status on neurocognitive functioning, controlling for demographics and clinical characteristics.
Results: Older age of last AUD related to worse processing speed among PLWH (b = -0.03; P = 0.006); however, this relationship was not significant among persons without HIV (b = 0.01; P = 0.455). The interaction between age of last AUD and HIV status did not predict neurocognitive functioning in other domains. Processing speed appeared clinically important, as slower speed related to worse everyday functioning, including more reported cognitive difficulties (r = -0.26, P < 0.001) and higher rates of functional dependence (OR = 0.87, 95%CI = 0.80-0.95, P = 0.002).
Conclusions: Our novel findings, demonstrating slower processing speed when a past AUD occurred at an older age in PLWH, highlight the value in assessing older PLWH for processing speed deficits, even if other cognitive domains appear to be intact.
© The Author(s) 2019. Medical Council on Alcohol and Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.