Objective: To assess the association of HIV infection, HIV disease parameters (including CD4+ T-cell counts, HIV viral load, and AIDS) and antiretroviral medication use with subclinical carotid artery atherosclerosis.
Design: Cross-sectional study nested within a prospective cohort study.
Methods: Among participants in the Women's Interagency HIV Study (1331 HIV-infected women, 534 HIV-uninfected women) and Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (600 HIV-infected men, 325 HIV-uninfected men), we measured subclinical carotid artery lesions and common carotid artery intima-media thickness using B-mode ultrasound. We estimated adjusted mean carotid artery intima-media thickness differences and prevalence ratios for carotid lesions associated with HIV-related disease and treatments, with multivariate adjustment to control for possible confounding variables.
Results: Among HIV-infected individuals, a low CD4+ T-cell count was independently associated with an increased prevalence of carotid lesions. Compared with the reference group of HIV-uninfected individuals, the adjusted prevalence ratio for lesions among HIV-infected individuals with CD4+ T-cell count less than 200 cells/mul was 2.00 (95% confidence interval, 1.22-3.28) in women and 1.74 (95% confidence interval, 1.04-2.93) in men. No consistent association of antiretroviral medications with carotid atherosclerosis was observed, except for a borderline significant association between protease inhibitor use and carotid lesions in men (with no association among women). History of clinical AIDS and HIV viral load were not significantly associated with carotid atherosclerosis.
Conclusion: Beyond traditional cardiovascular disease risk factors, low CD4+ T-cell count is the most robust risk factor for increased subclinical carotid atherosclerosis in HIV-infected women and men.