High blood pressure is more common among people with HIV than their HIV-negative peers, a phenomenon perhaps driven by body fat composition changes resulting from the side effects of early antiretrovirals (ARVs), aidsmap reports. Publishing their findings in Clinical Infectious Diseases, researchers from the AGEHIV Cohort Study in Amsterdam conducted a cross-sectional study of 537 HIV-positive individuals and 517 well-matched HIV-negative controls, conducting the first visits with participants between 2010 and 2012.

The researchers tested the participants’ resting blood pressure, defining high blood pressure, or hypertension, as one or a combination of the following: systolic blood pressure of 140 or above, diastolic blood pressure of 90 or above or the use of anti-hypertensive medication.

Almost all the HIV-positive participants were taking ARVs, and 37 percent of them had a history of taking Zerit (stavudine, or d4T), which is associated with lipodystrophy (changes in body fat composition).

The HIV-positive group was 63 percent more likely to have high blood pressure than the HIV-negative group—the respective high blood pressure rates were 48.2 percent and 36.4 percent.

After adjusting the data for age, sex, ethnicity, family history of high blood pressure, smoking, alcohol use, physical activity and body mass index, the researchers found that those with HIV had a 65 percent increased risk of high blood pressure. However, after adjusting the data for waist-to-hip ratio, HIV raised the risk of hypertension by only 29 percent, a difference that was not statistically significant, meaning it might have occurred by chance.

Among the HIV-positive participants, having taken Zerit was independently associated with a 54 percent increased risk of hypertension. After adjusting the data for waist-to-hip ratio and, separately, for hip circumference, this increased risk was only a respective 30 percent and 40 percent; neither of these risk increases was statistically significant.

The researchers concluded that their “findings suggest that changes in body composition involving both abdominal obesity and [Zerit]-induced peripheral lipoatrophy [the loss of fat in the limbs] might contribute to the higher prevalence of hypertension in” people with HIV.

To read the aidsmap article, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.