Long-term use of powerful drug cocktails known as highly active
antiretroviral therapy (HAART) may help protect the hearts of children and teens
infected with HIV, a new study reports.
HAART is a form of antiretroviral therapy that is widely used to treat people
with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Prior to the introduction of
antiretroviral therapies, youngsters infected with HIV were at increased risk
for heart failure, noted a team led by Dr Steven Lipshultz of the University of
Miami Miller School of Medicine.
Since the advent of powerful HIV-suppressing medications, "the effects of HIV
and [antiretroviral therapy] on the cardiovascular system of HIV-infected
children are not completely understood," the researchers wrote in the online
issue of JAMA Pediatrics. They pointed out that such children are
exposed to these drugs for many years, often beginning while they are still in
the womb, but the effects on their cardiovascular systems "are unknown."
How the study was done
The new study sought to clear that up. It included nearly 600 HIV-infected
and uninfected patients from 14 pediatric HIV clinics across the United
According to the team, heart function was better among HIV-infected children
receiving HAART than those who were infected with HIV and did not receive HAART,
and children who were exposed to HIV but not infected.
"Our results indicate that the current use of combination [antiretroviral
therapy], usually HAART, appears to be cardioprotective in HIV-infected children
and adolescents," the study authors reported. "This finding is even more
relevant in the developing world where the prevalence of HIV disease in children
is much higher."
The researchers added that further study comparing different drug regimens
might be beneficial "in optimising HIV outcomes and protecting long-term cardiac
health" of children with HIV.
The New Mexico AIDS Education and Training Center has more about children