Background: Combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) improves HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND) stage in the United States where subtype B predominates, but the effect of ART and subtype on HAND stage in individuals in Uganda with subtypes D and A is largely unknown.
Setting: A community-based cohort of participants residing in Rakai, Uganda.
Methods: Three hundred ninety-nine initially ART-naive HIV-seropositive (HIV+) individuals were followed up over 2 years. Neurological and neuropsychological tests and functional assessments were used to determine HAND stage. Frequency and predictors of HAND and HIV-associated dementia (HAD) were assessed at baseline and at follow-up after ART initiation in 312 HIV+ individuals. HIV subtype was determined from gag and env sequences.
Results: At 2-year follow-up, HAD frequency among HIV+ individuals on ART (n = 312) decreased from 13% to 5% (P < 0.001), but the overall frequency of HAND remained unchanged (56%-51%). Subtype D was associated with higher rates of impaired cognition (global deficit score ≥ 0.5) compared with HIV+ individuals with subtype A (55% vs. 24%) (P = 0.008). Factors associated with HAD at baseline were older age, depression, and plasma HIV viral load >100,000 copies/mL. At follow-up, age and depression remained significantly associated with HAD.
Conclusions: HIV+ individuals on ART in rural Uganda had a significant decrease in the frequency of HAD, but HAND persists after 2 years on ART. The current guideline of immediate ART initiation after HIV diagnosis is likely to greatly reduce HAD in sub-Saharan Africa. Further studies of the effect of HIV subtype and neurocognitive performance are warranted.