Evaluation of a low-resource screening strategy for ophthalmic pathologies and associated neurological morbidity in an older Tanzanian HIV-positive population

Grace George, Declan C. Murphy, H. D. Jeffry Hogg, Japhet Bright Boniface, Sarah Urasa, Justus Rwiza, Livin Uwemeye, Clare Bristow, Grace Hillsmith, Emma Rainey, Richard Walker, William K. Gray & Stella Maria-Paddick
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Globally, 43 million people are living with HIV, 90% in developing countries. Increasing life expectancy with combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) results in chronic complications, including HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) and eye diseases. HAND screening is currently challenging. Our aim was to evaluate clinical utility of retinopathy as a screening measure of HAND in older cART-treated individuals in Tanzania and feasibility of smartphone-based retinal screening in this low-resource setting. A cross-sectional systematic sample aged ≥ 50-years attending routine HIV follow-up in Tanzania were comprehensively assessed for HAND by American Academy of Neurology criteria and received ophthalmic assessment including smartphone-based retinal imaging. HAND and ophthalmic assessments were independent and blinded. Diagnostic accuracy was evaluated by AUROC curves. Of 129 individuals assessed, 69.8% were visually impaired. Thirteen had retinopathy. HAND prevalence was 66.7%. Retinopathy was significantly associated with HAND but HIV-disease factors (CD4, viral load) were not. Diagnostic accuracy of retinopathy for HAND was poor (AUROC 0.545-0.617) but specificity and positive predictive value were high. We conclude that ocular pathology and HAND appear highly prevalent in this low-resource setting. Although retinal screening cannot be used alone identify HAND, prioritization of individuals with abnormal retinal screening is a potential strategy in low-resource settings.