Zimbabwean scientist seeks to contribute to improving quality of life for people with HIV
HIV can affect the brain and result in cognitive problems commonly referred to as HIV Associated Neurocognitive Disorders (HAND) in approximately 50% of people living with HIV. This results in memory, language, problem solving, attention and concentration problems. These problems can interfere with daily life, affecting a person’s ability to drive, adherence to medication, daily activities and employment. In Zimbabwe, the estimates of HAND are not known because there are not enough skilled personnel to administer the cognitive assessments.
A new tool called the Neuroscreen was recently developed in the United States to assess these cognitive problems. The Neuroscreen is a smartphone application based cognitive screener to screen for cognitive problems in people living with HIV. It contains tests on the cognitive aspects commonly affected by HIV. The application works without internet and can be administered by a lay counsellor in the clinic.
Previously in Zimbabwe there was no tool to screen for cognitive problems. Upon realising this existing gap in the assessment of HAND in Zimbabwe, African Mental Health Research Initiative (AMARI) doctoral trainee Primrose Nyamayaro set out to gain insight into the presentation and prevalence of HAND, validate the Neuroscreen and assess its feasibility and acceptability in people living with HIV who use primary health care clinics.
The Neuroscreen was validated in two urban community primary health care clinics in Harare, Zimbabwe. The tool was validated on 231 research participants from the two primary health care clinics. For effective outcomes, the Neuroscreen was contextualized. It was translated to Shona (local language) and some of the culturally invalid content were replaced with locally relevant items.
The study outcomes will determine whether it is feasible for the Neuroscreen to be used to screen and identify people with cognitive problems who will need further detailed assessment from trained specialised personnel. Going forward the research focus will be on assessing whether the Neuroscreen can be used in different populations for example adolescents.
AMARI is one of 12 programmes funded through the Developing Excellence in Leadership, Training and Science (DELTAS Africa) programme; a US$100 million programme of The African Academy of Sciences supporting the Africa-led development of world-class scientific leaders through health research support, training fellowships, mentorship, and investments in research infrastructure in 12 programmes spanning 21 countries