Pathophysiology of ischaemic heart disease

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Purpose of review

To summarize recent findings in the pathogenesis of ischemic heart disease (IHD) in people living with HIV (PLWH).

Recent findings

PLWH have an elevated risk of IHD. Although incidence is declining, this condition still represents a major cause of non-AIDS-related mortality. The cause is likely multifactorial: traditional risk factors play an important role and IHD risk might be reduced with greater emphasis on primary prevention. The contribution of specific antiretroviral agents to IHD risk is changing as antiretroviral coverage increases globally and as safer agents have replaced drugs with well-described metabolic toxicities. The beneficial impact of virological suppression on antiretroviral therapy (ART) in reducing IHD is particularly evident in participants with advanced HIV infection and high baseline cardiovascular risk. The association between current abacavir use and myocardial infarction is still unexplained and indicates that mechanisms other than metabolic alterations may underlie IHD in PLWH. Consequently, the contributions of inflammation, subclinical atherosclerosis and endothelial dysfunction are receiving greater attention.


Modern ART coupled with intensified efforts towards primary prevention is the cornerstone of IHD risk management in PLWH. The role of chronic inflammation and its optimal management need to be defined.

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