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‘‘My body’s a 50 year-old but my brain is definitely an 85 year-old’’: exploring the experiences of men ageing with HIV-associated neurocognitive challenges

Lisa Hopcroft, Laura Bester, Daniel Clement, Adria Quigley, Manisha Sachdeva, Sean B Rourke, Stephanie A Nixon

Abstract


Introduction: Research investigating HIV, neurocognition and ageing is well developed using neuropsychometric or other quantitative approaches; however, little is known about individuals’ subjective experiences. The purpose of this article is to explore the experiences of men aged 50 and older who self-identify as having HIV-associated neurocognitive challenges. In particular, this study uses the Episodic Disability Framework (EDF) to explore participants’ perceptions regarding: 1) symptoms/ impairments, difficulties with day-to-day activities, challenges with social inclusion and uncertainty; 2) ageing as related to their HIV-associated neurocognitive challenges, and 3) the episodic nature of their HIV-associated neurocognitive challenges.

Methods: This qualitative, interpretive study involved in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 12 men aged 50 years and older who self-identified as having HIV-associated neurocognitive challenges. Participants were recruited from a neurobehavioural research unit (NBRU) at a large hospital in Toronto, Canada. Data were analyzed thematically and with reference to the EDF.

Results: Participants’ experiences reflected all concepts within the EDF to some extent. Difficulties with daily activities were diverse but were addressed using similar living strategies. Participants described challenges with work and social relationships resulting from neurocognitive challenges. Participants downplayed the significance of uncertainty in their lives, which they attributed to effective living strategies. Most men reported confusion regarding the link between their neurocognitive challenges and ageing. Others discussed ageing as an asset that helped with coping.

Conclusions: This is the first study to use a disability framework to examine the subjective experiences of men ageing with HIVassociated neurocognitive challenges. Findings reframe the episodic disability experienced by these individuals as being predictably linked to certain triggers. As such, support for managing neurocognitive challenges could focus on triggers that exacerbate the condition in addition to the impairments themselves. The study also describes ageing as not only a source of problems but also as an asset among men growing older with HIV.

Keywords: AIDS; disability; rehabilitation; age; Poz-brain; HAND

(Published: 23 July 2013)

Citation: Hopcroft L et al. Journal of the International AIDS Society 2013, 16:18506

http://www.jiasociety.org/index.php/jias/article/view/18506 | http://dx.doi.org/10.7448/IAS.16.1.18506




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Journal of the International AIDS Society | eISSN 1758-2652 | Editors-in-Chief: Susan Kippax and Kenneth Mayer

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