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HIV Plus Alcohol Hampers Short-Term Memory

Problems with learning new information can disrupt treatment, expert says

FRIDAY, July 24 (HealthDay News) -- HIV infection and chronic drinking can deal a double blow to short-term memory, a new study has found.

The study, appearing in an online early view of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, found that more than half of clinic patients with the virus that causes AIDS are also heavy drinkers and they appear to have more problems with short-term episodic memory, while long-term working memory seems unaffected.

"Results showed that individuals were able to retain information over time, which suggests that retrieval of information was intact, whereas lower scores on immediate memory suggested that difficulties were associated with ability to learn, or encode, information," study corresponding author Edith V. Sullivan, a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, said in a news release issued by the journal's publisher.

This inability to learn can affect many aspects of the person's life, including adhering to medication routines to help combat HIV, Sara Jo Nixon, a professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Florida, said in the same news release. Strategies to help these patients need to be employed, she added.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has more about alcohol problems.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, news release, July 23, 2009

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