Kerry Clifton, a 2015 recipient of a CAHR/CIHR Masters Research Award, grew up in South Africa and saw how HIV can affect both individuals and societies. She has carried with her a passion to help those living with HIV, and through her experience in cognitive rehabilitation and neurocognitive science, the transition to the study of HIV associated neurocognitive disorder (HAND) felt like the right fit. Today, with the help of the award, Kerry is now at Dalhousie University completing a Masters degree in Community Health and Epidemiology.
Her project is a timely study into the relationship between ageing, frailty, multimorbidity and the development and progression of HAND. Despite advances in HIV treatment that have greatly improved life span and quality of life, as the population ages, HAND is becoming more prevalent with about 50% of people living with HIV reporting some type of cognitive impairment. People may experience psychomotor slowing, attention deficits, and memory impairments which can range from mild to severe and affect every aspect of daily life.
Kerry will focus her research on frailty, a measurement of age related health problems that arise from deterioration in various physiological systems. “Frailty itself is thought to increase one’s susceptibility and vulnerability to stressors,” explains Kerry. “People that present as frail are more likely to have fluctuating disabilities, longer hospital stays, an increased risk of falls, and functional decline.” Using data from OHTN’s longitudinal cohort study, Kerry’s project will look at the association between frailty and the development of HAND as well as the speed at which HAND progresses. Determining these associations from such a robust data set could provide useful information to a variety of areas of HIV research, treatment, and care.
Kerry was thrilled to receive the award—“It will help me pursue the career in HIV research that I’ve always dreamed of having,” says Kerry. The award will be used to send Kerry to conferences and allows her to take the time to conduct her research thoroughly. “It’s an honour to have CAHR see that this work is valuable and to recognize the importance of helping those ageing with HIV—it’s a population that is not always recognized.”
The Canadian Association for HIV Research is proud to support students like Kerry through annual Master’s and Doctoral level research awards in Basic, Clinical, Epidemiological and Social Sciences.