Youth born with HIV appear at increased risk for heart disease

About 50% of adolescents born HIV-positive may be at increased risk for heart disease, including stroke and heart attack, later in life, according to a National Institutes of Health study led by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers. While previous studies linked HIV infection severity and certain HIV drugs to cardiovascular disease (CVD) in adults, this is the first to evaluate overall risk for CVD in teens infected with HIV since birth.

The study appears in the March 2014 print edition of Circulation.

The results were based on clinical assessments of 165 teens age 15 or older with HIV, who were treated with anti-HIV medications most of their lives. The researchers, led by Kunjal Patel, research scientist in the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH, used a scoring system to predict plaque buildup and thickening in major arteries to the heart and abdomen. Approximately half of the adolescents had scores indicating they were at risk for clogged coronary arteries, while nearly one-fourth were at risk for abdominal artery buildup.

The findings are the latest from the Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study (PHACS), a multi-site, long-term follow-up study of children and youth exposed to HIV at birth or who have had HIV since birth. The study is sponsored by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). In addition to funding from the NICHD, support for PHACS also is provided by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders; the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research; the National Institute on Drug Abuse; the National Institute of Mental Health; the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; and the NIH Office of AIDS Research.

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