We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis on the effect of HIV infection and antiretroviral therapy (ART) on carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT) to elucidate the role of HIV infection and ART. Also, an analysis on the role of ethnicity and gender on cIMT in HIV-infected populations was performed.
We searched the PubMed, Web of Science, the WHO websites and International AIDS Society for published observational studies were conducted by two independent reviewers for studies comparing HIV-infected antiretroviral-experienced patients and/or inexperienced with healthy controls on cIMT. The primary outcome was the standardized mean difference (SMD) of cIMT.
Twenty studies (five cohort, 15 cross-sectional, and two both cohort and cross-sectional studies) were identified comprising 7948 subjects (4656 HIV-infected; 3292 controls). In cohort studies, the standardized mean 1-year change in cIMT between HIV-infected patients and uninfected controls was not significantly different (0.16 mm/yr; 95% CI, -0.16, 0.49; p = 0.326). In 17 cross-sectional studies, the SMD in cIMT was significantly higher in HIV-infected than uninfected persons (0.27 mm; 95% CI, 0.04, 0.49; p = 0.027). HIV-infected patients on ART exhibited significantly higher SMD in cIMT compared to those not on ART (0.75 mm; 95% CI, 0.30, 1.19; p = 0.001). No confounding effect of gender and ethnicity could be established using meta-regression p > 0.05.
HIV infection itself and ART appear to influence the progression of cIMT and hence may be risk factors for cardiovascular events. No firm conclusions could be drawn on the effect of ethnic/race and gender differences on cIMT in HIV-infected populations.