Objective: We evaluated the separate and interactive associations of menopausal stage, menopausal symptoms, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection with cognition. We hypothesized that HIV-infected perimenopausal women would show the greatest cognitive difficulties and that menopausal symptoms would be inversely associated with cognition.
Methods: This cross-sectional study included 708 HIV-infected and 278 HIV-uninfected premenopausal, perimenopausal, or postmenopausal women (64% African American; median age, 44 y) from the Women’s Interagency HIV Study. Participants completed tests of verbal learning and memory, attention/processing speed, and executive function. We administered a menopausal symptom questionnaire that assessed anxiety, vasomotor, and sleep symptoms and obtained measures of depressive symptoms.
Results: In multivariable regression analyses controlling for relevant covariates, HIV infection, but not menopausal stage, was associated with worse performance on all cognitive measures (P’s < 0.05). Depressive symptoms were associated with lower cognitive performance on measures of verbal learning and memory, attention, and executive function (P’s < 0.05); anxiety symptoms were associated with lower performance on measures of verbal learning and memory (P’s < 0.05). Vasomotor symptoms were associated with worse attention (P < 0.05). HIV and anxiety symptoms interacted to influence verbal learning (P’s < 0.05); elevated anxiety was associated with worse verbal learning in HIV-infected women only.
Conclusions: Vasomotor, depressive, and anxiety symptoms, but not menopausal stage, are associated with worse cognitive performance in both HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected women, although elevated anxiety symptoms are more associated with verbal learning deficits in HIV-infected women. Because cognitive problems can interfere with everyday functioning, including treatment adherence, it may be important to screen and treat anxiety in HIV-infected women.