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Persistent Immune Activation and Carotid Atherosclerosis in HIV-Infected Ugandans Receiving Antiretroviral Therapy



Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and associated immune activation predict the risk of cardiovascular disease in resource-rich areas. Less is known about these relationships in sub-Saharan Africa.


Beginning in 2005, we enrolled subjects in southwestern Uganda into a cohort at the time of antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation. Multiple immune activation measures were assessed before and 6 months after ART initiation. Beginning in 2013, participants aged >40 years underwent metabolic profiling, including measurement of hemoglobin A1c and lipid levels and carotid ultrasonography. We fit regression models to identify traditional and HIV-specific correlates of common carotid intima media thickness (CCIMT).


A total of 105 participants completed carotid ultrasonography, with a median completion time of 7 years following ART initiation. Age, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level, and pre-ART HIV load were correlated with CCIMT. No association was found between CCIMT and any pre-ART biomarkers of immune activation. However, in multivariable models adjusted for cardiovascular disease risk factors, lower absolute levels of soluble CD14 and interleukin 6 and greater declines in the CD14 level and kynurenine-tryptophan ratio after 6 months of ART predicted a lower CCIMT years later (P < .01).


Persistent immune activation despite ART-mediated viral suppression predicts the future atherosclerotic burden among HIV-infected Ugandans. Future work should focus on clinical correlates of these relationships, to elucidate the long-term health priorities for HIV-infected people in the region.

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