The use of new potent protease inhibitor-based antiretroviral therapies in patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection has been increasingly associated with cardiovascular risk factors, including hyperlipidaemia, fat redistribution syndrome, insulin resistance, and diabetes mellitus. The introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in clinical practice has remarkably changed the natural history of HIV disease, leading to a notable extension of life expectancy, and prolonged lipid and glucose metabolism abnormalities are expected to lead to significant effects on the long-term prognosis and outcome of HIV-infected patients. Prediction modeling, surrogate markers and hard cardiovascular endpoints suggest an increased incidence of cardiovascular diseases in HIV-infected subjects receiving HAART, even though the absolute risk of cardiovascular complications remains still low, and must be balanced against the evident virological, immunological, and clinical benefits descending from combination antiretroviral therapy. Nevertheless, the assessment of cardiovascular risk should be performed on regular basis in HIV-positive individuals, especially after initiation or change of antiretroviral treatment. Appropriate lifestyle measures (including smoking cessation, dietary changes, and aerobic physical activity) are critical points, and switching HAART may be considered, although maintaining viremic control should be the main goal of therapy. Pharmacological treatment of dyslipidaemia (usually with statins and fibrates), and hyperglycaemia (with insulin-sensitizing agents and thiazolidinediones), becomes suitable when lifestyle modifications and switching therapy are ineffective or not applicable. © 2008 The British Infection Society.
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