HIV infection and current substance use (SU) are linked to cognitive and functional deficits, yet findings on their combined effects are mixed. Neurocognitive intraindividual variability, measured as dispersion of scores across a neuropsychological battery, is associated with worse cognitive outcomes and functional deficits among HIV+ adults but has not been studied in the context of HIV+ adults with current SU. We hypothesized that, among HIV+ adults, current SU would be associated with greater dispersion, that greater dispersion would be associated with worse medication adherence, and that this relationship would be worse among substance users.
Forty HIV+ adults completed neuropsychological, psychiatric, SU, and medical evaluations and an electronic medication adherence measure. General linear models evaluated the main effect of SU status on neurocognitive dispersion, and models stratified by SU status evaluated the effect of dispersion on medication adherence, adjusting for relevant covariates.
The SU+ group showed greater dispersion than did the SU- group, t(38) = 2.74, p = .049, d = 0.81, but this association did not survive multiple comparisons. Stratified analyses indicated a negative relationship between dispersion and medication adherence among the SU+ group but not in the SU- group; however, this effect was reduced after accounting for depressive symptoms.
We found preliminary evidence that current SU is associated with greater neurocognitive dispersion among HIV+ adults. SU and neurocognitive dispersion may have a synergistic effect on medication adherence; however, this effect is largely accounted for by depressive symptoms. Future research should examine progression of dispersion in HIV and consequent neurocognitive and functional deficits in those with current SU. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).