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Stroke in Human Immunodeficiency Virus-infected Individuals in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA): A Systematic Review



Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is associated with worse outcomes after stroke, but this association is less well-described in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). We reviewed literature on stroke among people living with HIV (PLWH) in SSA.


We systematically reviewed published literature for original clinical stroke studies conducted in SSA that included PLWH. We included studies that reported data on presenting characteristics, risk factors, and/or outcomes after stroke.


Seventeen studies (N = 478) met inclusion criteria. At the time of stroke presentation, PLWH had a median age ranging from 32 to 43 years. Subjects had low CD4 counts (median CD4, 108-225 cells/µl), and most were antiretroviral therapy-naïve. Fever, seizures, and concurrent opportunistic infections were common at presentation. Ischemic stroke accounted for up to 96% of strokes, which were mostly located in the anterior circulation territory. In studies comparing PLWH with HIV-uninfected individuals, PLWH had more frequent coagulopathy, greater stroke severity, (72% versus 36% National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale >13, P = .02), longer hospital length of stay (30.5 versus <10 days), and a higher 30-day mortality rate (23% versus 10.5%, P = .007).


Stroke in PLWH in SSA occurs at a young age, in those with advanced disease, and is associated with worse outcomes than in HIV-uninfected comparators. Stroke in young individuals in the region should prompt HIV testing, and ongoing efforts to promote early antiretroviral therapy initiation might also help decrease stroke incidence, morbidity, and mortality in the region.

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