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Spike Reported in Number of People with HIV Having a Stroke

New research suggests that people infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) may be up to three times more likely to have a stroke compared to those not affected with HIV. The study is published in the January 19, 2011, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“Our findings showed that stroke hospitalizations in the United States decreased by seven percent in the general population within the last decade while stroke hospitalizations for people with HIV rose 67 percent,” said Bruce Ovbiagele, MD, MSc, Professor of Neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

For the study, scientists reviewed all stroke hospitalizations in the United States within the last decade. The number of stroke diagnoses in the general population declined with 71,742 fewer strokes overall. However, stroke diagnoses among people with HIV increased by 537 more strokes from the start of the decade. For those with HIV, the study showed an increase in ischemic strokes but no increase in hemorrhagic strokes. An ischemic stroke is caused by a blood clot and is the most common type of stroke.

“The average age for a stroke among people with HIV was in the 50s, which is much lower than that of those without HIV. This finding suggests that HIV or HIV treatments may be directly related to stroke occurrence,” said Ovbiagele. “Indeed, one potential explanation is the increasingly widespread use of combination antiretroviral medications in HIV-infected people. While these therapies have greatly increased life expectancy, they may boost the presence of risk factors associated with stroke. Another possibility is that longer exposure to HIV as a result of greater survival, even at low viral load levels, may allow for the virus to increase stroke risk.”

The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 22,500 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.

For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit


Rachel L. Seroka | American Academy of Neurology
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