Abstract

Objective: The present study compares memory skills and executive function (EF) of young adults perinatally infected with HIV and community controls, controlling for cognitive abilities. Method: Subjects included 30 HIV+ and 10 control youth ages 18–24. Performance-based measures included digit span and letter-number sequencing subtests (WAIS-III), symbol span, auditory and visual memory indexes (WMS-IV), Trail Making Test (Condition 4) and Verbal Fluency Test (Condition 3) of the D-KEFS. Cognitive function was measured by Full Scale IQ (WASI). Analyses of variance (ANOVA and MANOVA) were computed to examine group differences. Results: Results indicated that groups significantly differed across all areas measured, with HIV group performing lower than the control group. However, when cognitive abilities were controlled, group differences were only found in auditory working memory (digit span), F(1, 37) = 10.7, p = .002, with the control group (M = 12.9, SD = 2.6) scoring better than the HIV group (M = 7.9, SD = 2.4). The groups also differed in education level, with the control group having higher education (some college) than the HIV group (89% vs. 30%). Conclusion(s): Perinatally infected young adults who are transitioning to adulthood are demonstrating lower functioning in areas of memory and EF when compared to peers. These skills are essential in adult life in order to achieve independence and successfully handle the demands of an adult health care system. Although group differences may be confounded by overall cognitive capacity and educational level, auditory working memory (as measured by digit span) seems to a reliable area of cognitive functioning in this population.