Prevalence of dysphagia and cognitive impairments in adults with HIV/AIDS in the acute care setting: An epidemiological study

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Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) are life-threatening conditions. This virus causes the suppression of the immune system, allowing opportunistic infections and diseases to attack the body. Due to these opportunistic infections, individuals with HIV/AIDS are susceptible to conditions such as dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), odynophagia (painful swallowing), and cognitive impairment (e.g., HIV dementia). The co-morbidity of these conditions is not clearly documented in the literature. Therefore, in this study, the prevalence of dysphagia (with and without cognitive impairment) in the HIV/AIDS population was determined by a review of 300 medical charts from patients admitted to a metropolitan hospital. Possible associations between the conditions and several demographic variables (e.g., age, CD4 cell count, recommended diet) were also explored. Twenty-one percent of the charts of patients with HIV/AIDS reported confirmed dysphagia and/or complaints of odynophagia. Of that 21%, only about five percent also had a documented cognitive impairment. This study supports previous prevalence estimates of dysphagia and odynophagia and reports prevalence of concurrent dysphagia and cognitive impairment, a potentially challenging complex. Lower CD4 counts were associated with the presence of dysphagia in this population. Individuals with dysphagia and cognitive impairments were more likely to be older and were more likely to be recommended a restrictive diet consistency. Implications and recommendations for future study of this population are discussed.