According to a National Institutes of Health network study, close to half of adolescents born with HIV may be at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke.

The Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study (PHACS) is a multi-site, long-term follow-up study of children and youth who have had HIV since birth. A total of 165 teens aged >15 years old who have been treated with anti-HIV medications were assessed. Each patient’s overall cardiovascular risk was calculated using the Pathobiological Determinants of Atherosclerosis in Youth (PDAY) score based on cholesterol levels, blood sugar level, smoking, blood pressure, and weight.

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The PDAY score is meant to estimate the likelihood that a patient has a build-up of artery clogging plaque in the coronary arteries or in the abdominal aorta. A PDAY score of 1 indicates an 18% or 24% chance greater chance of plaque build-up in the coronary arteries or abdominal aorta, respectively. A PDAY score of 0 is thought to indicate that the chances of cardiovascular disease are the same among those of the same age and sex with no known risk factors.  

Study results showed that 48% of the teens infected with HIV since birth had a score of >1 for the coronary artery measure, and 24% scored >1 for the abdominal aorta measure. Also, no major trends were observed in PDAY score changes over a 4-year time period. High cholesterol levels were noted as primary contributors to PDAY scores of >1. Further, patients who were treated with protease inhibitors or those with a history of AIDS were more likely to have higher PDAY scores.

Study authors stated more research is needed to understand all the potential factors that could affect cardiovascular risk in this group since this study only examined HIV-specific factors.

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