Link between HIV infection and heart disease investigated

A literature review examined the relationship between having an HIV infection and disease of the heart muscle or arteries.

The review of 45 studies by researchers from The School of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine & Sciences and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is published today in JAMA. People with HIV are much more likely to die from causes other than AIDS, and the leading cause of death is heart disease. However, it is not well understood why people with HIV are at greater risk for heart disease and whether HIV directly affects the heart muscle or the arteries that supply that muscle.

Researchers pooled all the studies that used advanced imaging techniques to better understand the potential ways HIV infection affects the heart. Many of these studies are from developed countries, despite the global burden of HIV that is primarily found in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, most of the individuals surveyed were older men, although a large proportion of the global HIV population are younger women.

The analysis found that just over a third of the studies showed a link between having HIV infection and disease in the heart arteries. However, these studies showed a lot of variation in the strength of the relationship. Nearly half of the studies showed an association between having HIV infection and disease in the heart muscle, but there was also variation in the strength of this association.

As HIV becomes a chronic disease and people live longer, they are at greater risk of developing heart disease. It is vital that we try to understand how HIV and AIDS cause heart disease, a problem that our research indicates remains unanswered. In addition, our research points to an urgent need for studies in low-income countries, and particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where the burden of HIV is greatest.–First author Jonathan Hudson, of The School of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine & Sciences

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