Executive functioning in children and adolescents with perinatal HIV infection and perinatal HIV exposure

Sharon L. Nichols*, Miriam C. Chernoff, Kathleen M. Malee, Patricia A. Sirois, Steven P. Woods, Paige L. Williams, Cenk Yildirim, Dean Delis, Betsy Kammerer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Background. Executive functions (EFs) are critical for management of life activities, but few studies have evaluated EFs in children and adolescents with perinatally acquired HIV (PHIV), who are at risk for problems in academics, behavior, and medication adherence. We compared EFs in youth with PHIV and in perinatally HIVexposed but uninfected (PHEU) youth. Methods. Four Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS) subtests were administered to 173 youth with PHIV and 85 PHEU youth, aged 9 to <19 years, who were enrolled in the Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study (PHACS) Memory and Executive Functioning Study. Youth with PHIV, with or without history of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Class C (AIDS-defining) condition (PHIV/C [n = 45] and PHIV/non-C [n= 128], respectively), were compared with each other and with PHEU youth. Among youth with PHIV, associations with measures of current and past disease severity were evaluated using adjusted linear regression models. Results. The PHIV/C group (mean age, 15.5 years), compared with the PHIV/non-C and PHEU groups (mean ages, 14.5 and 12.9 years, respectively), were significantly slower on the Inhibition and Color Naming/Reading Combined conditions of the Color-Word Interference subtest and made more errors on Inhibition; differences between the PHIV/C and PHEU groups persisted in adjusted models. No differences in adjusted means for fluency or problem-solving were found. The PHIV/non-C and PHEU groups did not differ on any measure. Associations of specific EF measures with HIV RNA viral load, CD4-positive T-lymphocyte percentage, and age at greatest disease severity were observed. Conclusions. Youth with PHIV and previous AIDS-defining conditions performed more poorly on some EF measures. Relationships of EF development with the degree and timing of disease severity require further study. Implications for long-term outcomes and interventions are important avenues for follow-up.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S15-S23
JournalJournal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society
StatePublished - 2016


  • Children
  • Executive functions
  • Perinatal HIV
  • youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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