People living with HIV do not face increased risks for heart attack

20 January 2015
An HIV ribbon

The risk of a heart attack for people living with HIV has declined to the same risk as people living without HIV. A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases shows that the increased risk of heart attack for people living with HIV is largely reversible when a continued emphasis on primary prevention is given, in combination with early initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) to prevent immune infection.

In the past, different studies described an approximate 40 to 80 percent higher risk of heart attack for people living with HIV and on ART, compared to people living without HIV. The new study included 24,768 participants living with HIV, and 256,600 demographically matched people not living with HIV, and found that there was no difference in relative risk for heart attack. Researchers think that the emphasis on cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk reduction, as well as the increased use of more lipid friendly and less toxic ART are the explanation as to why the risk of heart attack has dropped for people on ART treatment.

In this specific study, a contribution to the decrease in risk might have been the ease of access to medical services for the participants. Also, the participants were put on HIV treatment much earlier than normal. Although these are influencing factors, the study shows that the well-established higher risk of a heart attack in HIV patients may be reversible. With better HIV treatment and more attention to traditional cardiovascular risk factors, and easy access to care, the difference in risk by HIV status can be diminished or even eliminated.

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