BY HIV Plus Editors

October 29 2009 12:00 AM ET

Need another reason to pay closer attention to your heart health? A new study suggests that HIV significantly boosts one's risks for hardening of the arteries and a buildup of arterial plaque'regardless of whether you're taking anti-HIV drugs to treat it.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, compared the thickness of the carotid arteries of more than 400 HIVers with those of HIV-negative adults and found that HIV infection alone resulted in atherosclerosis incidence on a par with that associated with smoking, which is a proven risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

"The effect [of HIV alone] is so big," the researchers conclude, "that no drug or class of drugs stands out as being an effective contributor" to increased atherosclerosis risk.

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