New HIV/heart disease study launched in SA

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A new drug trial study launched in South Africa is targeting life-threatening diseases in people living with HIV.

According to an IoL report, studies have shown that individuals affected with the virus are likely to experience a heart attack or develop another form of heart disease compared to those who don’t.

But through a new drug, experts believe the risk of individuals contracting cardiovascular conditions can be reduced.

Speaking at the launch of The Randomised Trial to Prevent Vascular Events in HIV (REPRIEVE) programme, researcher Dr Carl Dieffenchach of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said while anti-retroviral treatment was crucial, so is the quality of life.

“An increased risk of heart diseases around the world is real. ARV’s are credibly important. But while we strive for people to live longer, we need to ensure that they live healthy wholesome lives,” Dieffenchach said.

The report says the global HIV/Aids clinician joined by Professor Gita Ramjee, director of the HIV Prevention Research Unit at the Medical Research Council said the clinical trial will be conducted through a statin drug called Pitavastatin.

Statin drugs are known to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of strokes and heart diseases. In the past, they have also combated and lowered inflammation in people who living with HIV. Dieffenchach added that individuals who begin therapy, sustain and adhere to it, live a relatively long life.

“The purpose of this study is to see if we can find a medication that is used for people who have heart disease or are at high risk of heart disease within an HIV-infected population will be reduced or normalised,” he said.

According to experts, factors that contribute to people living with HIV being more susceptible to contracting heart diseases include the use of some antiretroviral therapies which result in higher cholesterol levels and the fact that HIV causes inflammation in the body which in activities immune cells which in turn leads to blocked arteries.

The report says to work, REPRIEVE will enrol 6,500 participants from around the world and will follow them around for six years, assessing them to see if they will be instances of major adverse cardiovascular events. Participants have to live with HIV, be between the ages of 40 -75 and be at a low risk of contracting heart diseases.

In South Africa, the trials will be conducted in Durban, Gauteng and Cape Town.

IoL report

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