Background: Stroke risk is increased in AIDS patients, and highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) may accelerate atherosclerosis, but little is known about the incidence and risk factors for ischemic stroke in patients under HAART. We have studied the incidence, types of stroke and possible risk factors for cerebrovascular ischemic events in a large cohort of HIV-1-infected patients treated with HAART. Methods: We conducted a retrospective review of ischemic strokes and transient ischemic attacks occurring in a cohort of HIV-1-infected patients treated with HAART from 1996 to 2008. As a control group, consecutive unselected patients from the same cohort were included. Patients and controls were compared for demographic, clinical and laboratory variables, including vascular risk factors, data on HIV infection and duration of HAART. Variables with significant differences were included in a backward logistic regression model. Results: Twenty-seven cerebrovascular ischemic events occurred in 25 patients, with an incidence of 189 events (166 strokes) per 100,000 patients/year. Independent factors associated with cerebrovascular events were: history of high alcohol intake (OR 7.13, 95% CI 1.69–30.11; p = 0.007), a previous diagnosis of AIDS (OR 6.61, 95% CI 2.03–21.51; p = 0.002) and fewer months under HAART (OR 0.97, 95% CI 0.96–0.99; p < 0.001). Six patients (24%) had large artery atherosclerosis: they had a similar HAART duration to controls. Conclusions: Stroke incidence is high in patients with HIV-1 infection treated with HAART. Duration of HAART exerted a global protective effect for cerebrovascular ischemic events, and our results do not support a major role in large artery atherosclerosis stroke. High alcohol intake is a major risk factor for stroke in these patients.
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