Antiretroviral therapy (ART) has been associated with unfavourable lipid profile changes and increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). With a growing population on ART in South Africa, there has been concern about the increase in noncommunicable diseases such as CVD. We determined risk factors associated with increased total cholesterol (TC) in a large cohort on ART and describe the clinical management thereof.
We conducted an observational cohort study of ART-na€ıve adults initiating standard first-line ART in a large urban clinic in Johannesburg, South Africa. TC was measured annually for most patients. A proportional hazards regression model was used to determine risk factors associated with incident high TC (≥ 6 mmol/L).
Significant risk factors included initial regimen non-tenofovir vs. tenofovir [hazard ratio (HR) 1.54; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.14–2.08], age ≥40 vs. <30 years (HR 3.22; 95% CI 2.07– 4.99), body mass index (BMI) ≥ 30 kg/m2 (HR 1.65; 95% CI 1.18–2.31) and BMI 25–29.9 kg/m2 (HR 1.70; 95% CI 1.30–2.23) vs. 18–24.9 kg/m2, and baseline CD4 count < 50 cells/lL (HR 1.55; 95% CI 1.10–2.20) and 50–99 cells/lL (HR 1.40; 95% CI 1.00–1.97) vs. > 200 cells/lL. Two thirds of patients with high TC were given cholesterol-lowering drugs, after repeat TC measurements about 12 months apart, while 31.8% were likely to have received dietary counselling only.
Older age, higher BMI, lower CD4 count and a non-tenofovir regimen were risk factors for incident elevated TC. Current guidelines do not indicate regular cholesterol testing at ART clinic visits, which are the main exposure to regular clinical monitoring for most HIV-positive individuals. If regular cholesterol monitoring is conducted, improvements can be made to identify and treat patients sooner.