To test the hypothesis that cognitive impairment may be present early in the course of HTLV-III/ LAV infection, intravenous drug abusers (IDVAs) without overt symptoms of AIDS related illness were tested with standard neuropsychological and psychosocial measures. This study is the bas-line for a prospective longitudinal study of the natural history of HTLV-III/LAV infection in this high risk population. Of 211 subjects initially evaluated, 70 (33 % were HTLV-III/LAV seropositive and 141 (67% were seronegative. At the baseline, by univariate analysis, the seropositive IVDAs were significantly (p<05) more impaired than seronegatives on 4 of 8 measures: Finger Tapping - dominant, hand, Digit Span Forward, Trail making A and WAIS-Similarities. However, by multivariate analysis the seropositives were significantly more impaired only on the WAIS-Similarities and Wechsler - Associative Learning tests. Multiple factors such as drug use and psychological stress may have influenced test performance. These preliminary results, however, suggest that seropositive IVDAs may show evidence of impaired neuropsychological function even in the absence of AIDS related symptoms and are consistent with the hypothesis of the early neurotropism of HTLV-III/LAV.
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