HIV-Positive Individuals at Higher Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

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Once viewed as a death sentence, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is now seen as a controllable chronic condition. While people with HIV are generally living longer and living well thanks to effective medications and healthy lifestyle choices, emerging research suggests that they are significantly more likely to develop cardiovascular disease compared with people who do not have HIV.

HIV is a chronic inflammatory disease and it appears that this state of chronic inflammation in HIV patients may be contributing to the increase in cardiovascular disease.

In 2012, researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School found signs of increased arterial inflammation in subjects with HIV that was otherwise well-controlled with antiretroviral therapy. A more recent 2013 study at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found a 50% higher risk of acute myocardial infarction in those studied.

As the mechanisms underlying this increased risk are being explored, researchers are also investigating therapeutic strategies for these cardiovascular complications of HIV infection, including the use of statin drugs, which are traditionally used to control cholesterol. In two separate clinical trials, investigators are testing whether a daily dose of pitavastatin or rosuvastatin respectively reduce arterial inflammation and the increased risk of heart disease in patients infected with HIV.

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