To investigate the association between HIV viremia exposure during antiretroviral therapy (ART) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk.
Nationwide observational cohort.
Participants (age >15 years) from the Swedish nationwide InfCareHIV register initiating ART 1996–2017 were categorized in a time-updated manner into four viremia categories, starting from 12 months after ART initiation: suppression (<50 copies/ml), low-level viremia (50–199 copies/ml and 200–999 copies/ml, respectively), and high-level viremia (≥1000 copies/ml). In addition, cumulative viremia was estimated as the area under the log viral load (VL) curve. Proportional subhazard models adjusted for sex, age, pre-ART CD4 and VL, injection drug use, and country of birth were used to analyze the association between viremia exposure and CVD risk (ischemic heart disease, stroke, and heart failure; data obtained by linkage to national registers), accounting for the competing risk of non-CVD death.
In all, 337 cases of CVD were observed during 44 937 person-years of follow-up (n = 6562). Higher viremia exposure was associated with CVD, both when parameterized as cumulative viremia (adjusted subhazard ratio [aSHR] per 1 log10 copy × year/ml, 1.03; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.01–1.05) and as viremia category (aSHR for high-level viremia versus suppression, 1.45; 95% CI, 1.03–2.05). We observed no association between CVD and low-level viremia compared with those with suppression.
Higher exposure to HIV viremia was linked to CVD in ART recipients, whereas no increased risk was detected for people with low-level viremia compared with viral suppression. Causal inference is limited by the observational nature of this study.