BY HIV Plus Editors
December 01 2009 1:00 AM ET
The evidence continues to mount that treatment interruptions are very unwise for most HIVers. A new study in the journal AIDS warns that viral replication during drug holidays -- even if suppressed again with the reinitiation of treatment -- may be hazardous for your heart.
An analysis of HIVers who took treatment breaks but resumed medications when their CD4-cell counts dropped below 350 showed that viral replication during the absence of anti-HIV drugs significantly increased a host of blood-based biomarkers associated with inflammation (a condition linked with increased cardiac risks), endothelial dysfunction (damage to blood vessel linings), and altered metabolism. When treatment was resumed, the levels of biomarkers dropped, but their having been present at all indicated potential cardiovascular damage and disease.
The researchers believe that HIV replication during drug holidays activates the body's endothelial and fat cells at the molecular level, which over time boosts cardiovascular risks and produces high levels of the blood-based biomarkers linked with heart disease.