Aims: Research into neuropsychological consequences of HIV has focused mainly on male subjects, and therefore very little is known about the disease in female subjects and, of course, about gender differences. The aim of the present research was therefore to investigate neuropsychological impairment rates and pattern in HIV male and female patients, with regard to the study of gender differences in tasks assessing attention, memory for texts, digits and words, psychomotor speed, verbal intelligence and abstract reasoning.
Methods: A clinical sample was recruited consisting of 122 subjects, divided into four groups: (i) 57 HIV+ men; (ii) 31 HIV+ women; (iii) 18 HIV− men and (iv) 16 HIV− women. All the subjects had more than 18 years, being the average of age of 34.08 for men and 33.35 for women. The evaluation of each subject consisted of a semistructured interview investigating sociodemographic, clinical and toxicological aspects and a neuropsychological assessment, with a battery of tests specifically selected for this study and chosen for their validity and because they have been shown to be sensitive to neuropsychological impairment in HIV-infected patients in other studies.
Results: None of HIV− male and female groups fulfilled impairment criteria. Regarding the HIV+ group, a rate of neuropsychological impairment of 51.9% was obtained for the men and 54.8% for the women, but there were no significant differences between groups. Nevertheless, were detected significant differences in neuropsychological impairment rates between HIV+ and HIV− women, and also between HIV+ and HIV− men. Although HIV+ women presented multiple factors that could increase their neuropsychological vulnerability to the effects of HIV, HIV+ men had the same probability of having neuropsychological impairment as HIV+ women.
Conclusions: A different neuropsychological impairment pattern was detected between genders: while HIV+ men had greater impairment in visual memory, attention, psychomotor speed and abstract reasoning, HIV+ women had greater impairment on attention, psychomotor speed and verbal memory for texts.