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Could HIV/AIDS drugs lead to heart disease and stroke for the chronically ill?

antiretroviral_MikeBlyth.jpg
Mike Blyth
/
Flickr

In the early days of the AIDS epidemic, a positive diagnosis was virtually a death sentence.  Today, a person taking antiretroviral medications can live long term with the disease as a chronic infection. Now researchers are looking into why the aging population living with HIV/AIDS is at greater risk for heart disease and stroke.

Clinical researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center will use a $3.8 million grant to investigate why people treated with antiretrovirals for HIV have higher than average rates of heart disease and stroke.

Doctor Giovanni Schifitto is one of the leaders on the study, which will examine causes of a narrowing of the carotid arteries in these patients.

"If this process is doing damage to these neck vessels, it's likely also doing damage in other places," Schifitto says. "So, we can link them to strokes and heart attacks."

Researchers will measure test subjects over 50 years old for three years. The test group is made up of 180 individuals who are HIV positive and 90 who are negative.

"What is the effect of the virus versus what is the effect of the drug? That's actually what we want to do," Schifitto says.

He believes the study could lead to new approaches to treatment.