Purpose of review: Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) use has markedly reduced AIDS-related mortality and opportunistic illness. With improved survival, cardiovascular disease (CVD) has emerged as an important noninfectious chronic comorbidity among antiretroviral (ARV)-treated HIV-infected persons.
Recent findings: HIV infection can impact CVD and comorbidities known to increase CVD risk. Untreated HIV can cause proatherogenic elevations in serum lipids. Chronic HIV viremia results in increases in systemic inflammation, hypercoagulation, and reductions in endovascular reactivity, all of which are at least partially reversible with virally suppressive HAART. Chronic T-cell activation can also result in adverse vascular effects. Use of some ARV drugs can impact CVD risk by causing pro-atherogenic serum lipid elevations, induction of insulin resistance, increases in visceral adiposity or subcutaneous fat loss. Abacavir use may increase myocardial infarction risk by reducing vascular reactivity and/or increasing platelet activation. Traditional risk factors such as advancing age, smoking, hyperlipidemia, and hypertension remain important predictors of CVD among HAART-treated HIV-infected persons.
Summary: HIV in the HAART era is a chronic manageable condition. CVD is an important cause of morbidity among HIV-infected persons. Untreated HIV can increase CVD risk in several ways and these effects are at least partially reversible with successful treatment. Use of specific ARVs can adversely impact CVD risk but the multiple long-term benefits of chronic HIV suppression and immune reconstitution achievable with potent HAART outweigh the adverse impact upon CVD risks that they may have. Standard CVD screening and risk-reducing interventions should be routinely undertaken for HIV-infected persons.