CONTEXT:

Research shows, conclusively, that perinatal HIV infection has negative effects on cognitive functioning of children and adolescents. However, the extent of these cognitive impairments is unknown. Current literature does not document specific cognitive domains most affected in HIV-infected children and adolescents.

OBJECTIVE:

To systematically review and meta-analyze the degree of cognitive impairment, and the specific cognitive domains affected, in children and adolescents with perinatally acquired HIV infection.

DATA SOURCES:

We systematically searched 5 electronic bibliographic databases, namely: PubMed, PsychINFO, Academic Search Premier, Scopus, and WorldCat, by using a search protocol specifically designed for this study.

STUDY SELECTION:

Studies were selected on the basis of set a priori eligibility criteria. Titles, abstracts, and full texts were assessed by 2 independent reviewers.

DATA EXTRACTION:

Data from included studies were extracted into Microsoft Excel by 2 independent reviewers.

RESULTS:

Twenty-two studies were identified for inclusion in the systematic review and of this, 6 studies were included in the meta-analysis. Results from the meta-analysis indicated that working memory and executive function were the domains most affected by the HIV virus.

LIMITATIONS:

Only 27% of the included studies were suitable to enter into the meta-analysis. There was significant geographic bias in published studies, with only 32% (7/22) of included studies from sub-Saharan Africa.

CONCLUSIONS:

The evidence supports an association between HIV infection in children and adolescents and cognitive impairment in the domains of working memory, executive function and processing speed, with effect size estimates also providing some support for deficits in visual memory and visual-spatial ability.

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