Prospective Evaluation of an Abbreviated Test Battery to Screen for Neurocognitive Impairment in HIV-Positive Military Members

AIDS Behav. 2021 Oct;25(10):3347-3354. doi: 10.1007/s10461-021-03341-6. Epub 2021 Aug 11.


Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND) affects around 20-50% of people living with HIV (PLWH). Although batteries of tests are used to identify neurocognitive impairment (NCI), they are long and difficult to perform during a routine clinic visit, thus impairing the ability to diagnose HAND. Therefore, a brief yet sensitive screening tool to identify NCI is necessary. This study prospectively evaluated an abbreviated screening battery with reported 86.5%/87.1% sensitivity/specificity, identified from a planned post-hoc analysis in a prior neurocognitive study among military PLWH. Adult HIV-positive military beneficiaries in the U.S. Military HIV Natural History Study, who agreed to undergo a comprehensive seven-domain neuropsychological battery (16 tests), and who completed an additional 20-min abbreviated battery (AB), comprised of four tests, prior to the full battery (FB) were included in this analysis. A group of 169 individuals completed both tests, of which 25.4% had a positive AB and 17.8% had NCI on FB (global deficit score ≥ 0.5). With the FB as the reference standard, the specificity for the AB was 79.9% (73.2-86.5), however the sensitivity was 50.0% (32.1-67.9). In those with NCI by FB but not AB, the most common impaired domains were executive function (73.3%) and memory (73.3%), both being domains not fully tested by the AB. An abbreviated HAND screening battery of four tests requiring approximately 20 min provided a relatively high level of specificity but lacked sensitivity for detection of NCI. Inclusion of additional domains or alternative scoring approaches may improve sensitivity but require further study. Continued efforts are needed to develop an effective brief screening test for HAND.

Keywords: HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder; Human immunodeficiency virus; Neurocognitive impairment; Screening.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • HIV Infections* / complications
  • HIV Infections* / diagnosis
  • HIV Infections* / epidemiology
  • HIV Seropositivity*
  • Humans
  • Military Personnel*
  • Neurocognitive Disorders
  • Neuropsychological Tests