Researchers in Malawi have found that HIV is an important risk factor for stroke in Malawian adults. Across sub-saharan Africa the incidence of stroke is on the increase with hypertension considered the leading factor.
However, a majority of young adult stroke patients have a low prevalence of the known risk factors of stroke – blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and smoking. A study recently published in the scientific journal Neurology found that of 222 stroke patients in Malawi, 42% of the cases under the age 45 could be attributed to HIV infection.
It has been suggested that HIV and its treatment may increase the risk of stroke. It is thought that the virus may cause stroke directly or indirectly through opportunistic infections or from the side effects of ARVs. However, the importance of HIV and ART as risk factors for stroke remains unclear, especially in sub-Saharan African settings.
This study has found evidence of a link between HIV infection and stroke, the researchers also found that treatment for HIV was also shown to affect the risk of stroke with patients in their first six months on antiretroviral therapy (ART) at the highest risk. There was also no interaction between HIV and high blood pressure.
The implications of this study highlight the potential need to reconsider how HIV treatment is introduced. n