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1 March 2017, 13:36
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Study aiming to reduce heart disease seeks HIV-positive South Africans

Study aiming to reduce heart disease seeks HIV-positive South Africans - picture 1

A heart disease reduction study funded by the US National Institutes of Health is currently seeking HIV-positive South Africans over 40 to take part in a trial that already includes Americans‚ Brazilians‚ Thais and Canadians.

People who have HIV have over twice the risk of developing heart disease as do people without HIV. Although antiretrovirals can help people with HIV achieve normal life expectancy, they suppress rather than eliminate the virus, which still activates the immune system. “Activating the immune system causes inflammation, which can increase the risk of blocked arteries and even increase cholesterol,” explained Carl Dieffenbach of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the US National Institutes of Health, who is one of the researchers running the study. Heart disease can set in early among this high-risk population, which is why participants as young as 40 are being sought.
Initial data suggests that cholesterol levels in HIV-positive people can be controlled by statins, which are given to members of the general population at increased risk of heart disease.
All participants in the six-year study must be above 40 and below 75 and taking antiretrovirals. They will take a low-dose statin or a placebo, and researchers will track whether the statin reduces their risk of strokes and heart attacks.