Conference Coverage

Testosterone therapy linked to CV risk in men with HIV



Men with HIV are likely prone to the same cardiovascular risks from testosterone therapy as other men, according to new research.

There’s no reason to think they weren’t, but it hadn’t been demonstrated until now, and men with HIV are already at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. The take-home message is that “it would be prudent for clinicians to monitor closely for cardiovascular risk factors and recommend intervention to lower cardiovascular risk among men with HIV on or considering testosterone therapy,” lead investigator Sabina Haberlen, PhD, an assistant scientist in the infectious disease epidemiology division of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, said in a poster that was presented as part of the Conference on Retroviruses & Opportunistic Infections, which was presented online this year. CROI organizers chose to hold a virtual meeting because concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

Testosterone therapy is common among middle-aged and older men with HIV to counter the hypogonadism associated with infection. The investigators turned to the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study – a 30-year, four-city study of HIV-1 infection in men who have sex with men – to gauge its effect.

The 300 men in the study had a baseline coronary CT angiogram in 2010-2013 and a repeat study a mean of 4.5 years later. They had no history of coronary interventions or kidney dysfunction at baseline and were aged 40-70 years, with a median age of 51 years. About 70% reported never using testosterone, 8% were former users before entering the study, 7% started using testosterone between the two CTs, and 15% entered the study on testosterone and stayed on it.

Adjusting for age, race, cardiovascular risk factors, baseline serum testosterone levels, and other potential confounders, the risk of significant coronary artery calcium (CAC) progression was 2 times greater among continuous users (P = .03) and 2.4 times greater among new users (P = .01), compared with former users, who the investigators used as a control group because, at some point, they too had indications for testosterone replacement and so were more medically similar than never users.

The risk of noncalcified plaque volume progression was also more than twice as high among ongoing users, and elevated, although not significantly so, among ongoing users.

In short, “our findings are similar to those on subclinical atherosclerotic progression” in trials of older men in the general population on testosterone replacement, Dr. Haberlen said.

About half the subjects were white, 41% were at high risk for cardiovascular disease, 91% were on antiretroviral therapy, and 81% had undetectable HIV viral loads. Median total testosterone was 606 ng/dL. CAC progression was defined by incident CAC, at least a 10 Agatston unit/year increase if the baseline CAC score was 1-100, and a 10% or more annual increase if the baseline score was above 100.

Lower baseline serum testosterone was also associated with an increased risk of CAC progression, although not progression of noncalcified plaques.

The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Haberlen didn’t report any relevant disclosures.

SOURCE: Haberlen S et al. CROI 2020, Abstract 662.

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