This summer, leaders of our Center along with the Alzheimer’s Association
Michigan Chapter received a grant from the Michigan Department of
Health and Human Services to bring dementia awareness and education to
those living with and caring for people living with HIV. The project is in the
planning stages, and is expected to last at least three years.
Due to the tremendous breakthroughs in care and management of HIV,
people with HIV are living longer. In fact, in Michigan, 76% of people living
with HIV over the age of 40 have achieved viral suppression — that is,
the HIV viral load is undetectable in their body. As a result, the disease
progresses much more slowly and individuals are staying healthier for
longer periods of time.
However, these successes introduce new challenges for people living with HIV. Firstly, because people living with HIV are living longer, and age is the primary risk factor associated with Alzheimer’s disease, this population faces a risk that it has not experienced before. That is coupled with the fact that people living with HIV tend to already face accelerated aging, which puts them at higher risk for cardiac and diabetes-related conditions. These conditions, in addition to higher age, significantly contribute to a profound risk of both Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, as well as HIV-associated cognition changes, called HAND (HIV-associated neurocognitive dementia).
Given this changing landscape for people living with HIV, our Center and the Alzheimer’s Association thought it critical that health professionals and caregivers who support people living with HIV, as well as those living with HIV, increase their awareness of dementia.
Thus far this summer, the planning committee composed of Dr. Bruno Giordani and staff from our Center along with a Project Manager from the Alzheimer’s Association met to define goals and scope of the project. The team successfully recruited eight health professionals working within the HIV field, and seven doctors (internal medicine clinicians and infectious disease specialists) who manage the care of HIV patients to contribute to the project. Two board meetings took place in July that served to define the care environment and specific needs to educate both health professionals and reach people living with HIV.
From these meetings, our team gathered many outreach and educational tactics to begin working toward over the next several years. Initial projects include dementia education resources for infectious disease doctors and those living with HIV, incorporating dementia and brain health education into statewide conferences targeting HIV professionals, and generating brain health presentations in areas with a high population of people living with HIV.
We are eager to build this work to meet the needs of people living with HIV in Michigan. Stay tuned for further developments over the coming months.
If you know someone who may be interested in lending their knowledge of the HIV environment in Michigan, please do not hesitate to reach out to Erin Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.