A UCLA-led study found HIV patients at risk of heart disease are less likely to receive a common drug treatment for the disease compared with patients without HIV.
In the study published earlier this month, researchers observed data from a representative sample of patients with and without HIV aged 40 to 79. They found that a smaller proportion of patients with HIV received preventative drug treatments for cardiovascular disease compared to patients without HIV. The preventative treatment is a combination of the drugs aspirin and statin, which help reduce the risk of heart disease, according to a press release.
Joseph Ladapo, an associate professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine and the lead author of the study, said patients with HIV may be at a higher risk for heart disease than patients without HIV. He added while the reason for this is unknown, it may be related to the inflammation from chronic infections that HIV patients have.
Anti-AIDS medication has increased the lifespan of HIV patients in developed countries, according to the press release. However, these medications do not help treat noninfectious conditions such as heart disease and strokes, which are becoming major causes of death for patients with HIV, Ladapo said.
“It’s only in recent years that we’ve had more people (infected with HIV) advancing to middle age and becoming old enough to develop these kinds of chronic diseases,” he said. “We’re observing people with HIV are having heart attacks earlier, having strokes earlier and dying from sudden cardiac arrest earlier.”
Researchers think one reason why fewer patients with HIV receive the preventative care for cardiovascular disease is because HIV care is mainly focused on antiretroviral medication, which targets the virus itself, Ladapo added.
“It’s possible that this focus takes away from preventative primary care, such as colonoscopies, mammograms or statin drug therapy,” he said.
Ladapo said he hopes the study’s results influence health care policy and bring more attention to cardiovascular disease among patients with HIV. For example, he said he thinks a program that subsidizes preventative cardiovascular care for HIV patients could make a difference.
“It’s about how we can level the playing field between patients with HIV and patients without HIV,” Ladapo said.