A suppressed immune system among people with HIV has only a tenuous connection to an increased risk of heart attack and coronary heart disease, aidsmap reports. Publishing their findings in the online edition of the journal AIDS, researchers culled data from their large observational study of 33,301 HIV-positive participants. The scientists found a more direct link to diminished CD4s and a raised risk of stroke; however, they believe this apparent connection was influenced by misclassifications in addition to other biases.

With more than 223,000 person-years of follow-up between them, the participants experienced 717 heart attacks, 1,056 coronary heart disease events, 303 confirmed strokes and 1,284 cardiovascular disease events overall. These health problems were all less likely to occur among those who had never experienced a suppressed immune system.

While an initial analysis showed a connection between low CD4s and a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, once the researchers controlled for other risk factors, this link no longer had statistical significance, meaning it could be the result of chance.

Those with CD4s below 100 had twice the risk of stroke as those who were not immunosuppressed. However, after the investigators factored out strokes that likely had been misclassified, they found the apparent link weakened. Still, when CD4 counts doubled, the participants’ risk for stroke dropped nearly 19 percent.

To read the aidsmap story, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.