Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is a recognized risk factor for stroke among young populations, but the exact mechanisms are poorly understood. We studied the clinical, radiologic, and histologic features of HIV-related ischemic stroke to gain insight into the disease mechanisms.
We conducted a prospective, in-depth analysis of adult ischemic stroke patients presenting to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Blantyre, Malawi, in 2011.
We recruited 64 HIV-infected and 107 HIV-uninfected patients. Those with HIV were significantly younger (P < .001) and less likely to have established vascular risk factors. Patients with HIV were more likely to have large artery disease (21% vs 10%; P < .001). The commonest etiology was HIV-associated vasculopathy (24 [38%]), followed by opportunistic infections (16 [25%]). Sixteen of 64 (25%) had a stroke soon after starting antiretroviral therapy (ART), suggesting an immune reconstitution–like syndrome. In this group, CD4+ T-lymphocyte count was low, despite a significantly lower HIV viral load in those recently started on treatment (P < .001).
HIV-associated vasculopathy and opportunistic infections are common causes of HIV-related ischemic stroke. Furthermore, subtypes of HIV-associated vasculopathy may manifest as a result of an immune reconstitution–like syndrome after starting ART. A better understanding of this mechanism may point toward new treatments.