Individuals with HIV Twice as Likely to Develop Heart Disease


HIV-associated cardiovascular disease is on the rise among individuals living with the virus, particularly in regions with limited resources.

Advancements in HIV treatment have extended the lifespan of individuals living with the virus. With an aging patient population, HIV-related comorbidities are on the rise and the prevalence of chronic conditions in this group is increasing.

A recent analysis published in Circulation found that HIV-associated heart disease has more than tripled over the past 20 years and individuals with the virus are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease than their healthy counterparts.

In the analysis, which includes data from studies of approximately 800,000 individuals from 163 countries, the researchers aimed to determine the rate of heart disease among individuals living with HIV. The researchers also calculated the number of years lost as a result of death or ill-health in each country to measure the disease’s global impact.

According to their findings, more than two-thirds of the burden of HIV-associated heart disease was found in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia Pacific regions, specifically in Swaziland, Botswana, and Lesotho. The virus has steadily increased as a risk factor for heart disease and many people with HIV are more likely to die from chronic diseases, such as cancer or cardiovascular disease.

Related Coverage: Improved Cardiovascular Treatments Needed for Patients With HIV

“We now have clear evidence that your risk of heart and circulatory disease is doubled if you have HIV,” Jeremy Pearson, PhD, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said in a press release. “This news will have major public health implications globally, but particularly in developing countries in Africa where the burden of HIV is higher.”

Despite the findings, little is known about the link between HIV and heart disease. The researchers indicated that the virus may cause inflammation of blood vessels and raise fat levels in the blood, affecting the body’s ability to regulate sugar levels, which can contribute to cardiovascular disease.

“The effects of 1 disease on another are often poorly understood,” Dr Pearson said in the press release. “But, with aging population, the number of people living with more than 1 disease will continue to rise. It’s essential we build our understanding of the interplay between conditions so we can give patients the best treatments and advice.”

The findings have implications for addressing preventive measures for cardiovascular disease in the HIV patient population, specifically in low resource countries where the HIV burden is high, the researchers concluded.


Shah ASV, Steizle D, Lee KK, et al. Global burden of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease in people living with the human immunodeficiency virus: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Circulation. 2018.

HIV doubles heart disease risk, global study finds [news release]. University of Edinburgh’s website. Accessed July 19, 2018.

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