08 August 2011

HIV drugs cause high cholesterol

Strategies are needed to protect infected kids from long-term cardiovascular harm, researchers say.


Strategies are needed to protect infected kids from long-term cardiovascular harm, researchers say

Children with HIV who receive antiretroviral treatments have persistently high cholesterol and other blood fat lipid levels, and would benefit from guidelines aimed at reducing their long-term heart risks, researchers say.

The findings are published in JAIDS, Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.

"Formal guidelines are the first crucial step in minimizing cardiovascular disease complications and maximising quality of life in this vulnerable population," the authors of an editorial said in a Journal news release. The most effective strategy probably consists of a lipid-friendly drug regimen – meaning medications that don't affect blood fats – along with lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, they said.

Cholesterol declines when changes are made to antiretroviral treatment

The editorial accompanies two studies in the issue that examined blood fats in children treated for HIV.

In one study, led by Denise L. Jacobson of Harvard School of Public Health, the researchers followed 240 HIV-infected children with high cholesterol for two years. During this time, the children had persistently high lipid levels. Cholesterol levels dropped to normal in only about one-third of the children.

Cholesterol levels were more likely to decline when changes were made to their antiretroviral treatment, the researchers found. In most cases, medication changes were related to the HIV, not lipid levels. Only 15 of the children were given drugs specifically to manage their cholesterol.

Treatment needed to protect HIV positive children from heart disease

In a separate study, researchers at the Imperial College School of Medicine, London, compared the effect of different HIV drugs on 449 HIV-infected children's lipid levels. They found all of the drugs caused a surge in cholesterol. The class of HIV drugs known as protease inhibitors, in particular, triggered the biggest increase.

Within five years, 10% of children developed low-density lipoprote in cholesterol levels above the 95th percentile. But based on those numbers, only three patients needed to take cholesterol medication.

Because HIV-infected children are likely to live well into adulthood, the researchers said treatment strategies need to be developed that will protect them against heart disease later in life.

"Clinical trials are required to develop and test intervention strategies to protect against cardiovascular disease in children born with HIV, growing into adult life," Dr Margaret P. Rhoads of Imperial College and co-authors wrote in the news release.

(HealthDay News, August 2011)

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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

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