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Cardiovascular disease and HIV infection: host, virus, or drugs?

Martínez, Esteban; Larrousse, María; Gatell, José M

Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases: February 2009 - Volume 22 - Issue 1 - p 28–34
doi: 10.1097/QCO.0b013e328320a849
HIV infection and AIDS: Edited by Martin Fisher

Purpose of review With effective antiretroviral therapy, cardiovascular disease has gained importance as a cause of morbidity and mortality in HIV-infected persons. We review the risk of cardiovascular disease in HIV-infected persons compared with that in uninfected persons and discuss the relative contributions of host, HIV, and antiretroviral therapy in the light of current knowledge.

Recent findings The incidence of cardiovascular disease in HIV-infected patients receiving antiretroviral therapy is low. However, the risk of cardiovascular disease increased compared with that in uninfected persons. This fact is substantially due to a higher prevalence of underlying traditional cardiovascular risk factors that are mostly host dependent. HIV may additionally contribute both directly through immune activation and inflammation, and indirectly through immunodeficiency. In a more modest way than that of HIV infection, the type of antiretroviral therapy may also contribute through its impact on metabolic and body fat parameters, and possibly through other factors that are currently unclear.

Summary Prevention of cardiovascular disease in HIV-infected patients should be standard of care. Traditional risk factors should be investigated and aggressively treated when possible. Antiretroviral therapy should be initiated earlier in patients with high cardiovascular risk. From a purely cardiovascular perspective, the benefits of antiretroviral therapy clearly outweigh any potential risk.

Infectious Diseases Unit, Hospital Clínic-IDIBAPS, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

Correspondence to Esteban Martínez, MD, PhD, Infectious Diseases Unit, Hospital Clínic-Institut d'Investigaciones Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer, University of Barcelona, C/Villarroel 170, 08036 Barcelona, Spain Tel: +34 93 2275430; fax: +34 93 4514438; e-mail:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.