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IntroductionIn Sub-Saharan Africa, the rising rates of cerebrovascular and cardiovascular diseases (CBD/CVD) are intersecting with an ageing HIV-infected population. The widespread use of antiretroviral therapy (ART) may confer an additive risk and may not completely suppress the risk associated with HIV infection. High-quality prospective studies are needed to determine if HIV-infected patients in Africa are at increased risk of CBD/CVD and to identify factors associated with this risk. This study will test the hypothesis that immune activation and dysfunction, driven by HIV and reactivation of latent herpesvirus infections, lead to increased CBD/CVD risk in Malawian adults aged ≥35 years.Methods and analysisWe will conduct a single-centre, 36-month, prospective cohort study in 800 HIV-infected patients initiating ART and 190 HIV-uninfected controls in Blantyre, Malawi. Patients and controls will be recruited from government ART clinics and the community, respectively, and will be frequency-matched by 5-year age band and sex. At baseline and follow-up visits, we will measure carotid intima-media thickness and pulse wave velocity as surrogate markers of vasculopathy, and will be used to estimate CBD/CVD risk. Our primary exposures of interest are cytomegalovirus and varicella zoster reactivation, changes in HIV plasma viral load, and markers of systemic inflammation and endothelial function. Multivariable regression models will be developed to assess the study's primary hypothesis. The occurrence of clinical CBD/CVD will be assessed as secondary study endpoints.Ethics and disseminationThe University of Malawi College of Medicine and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine research ethics committees approved this work. Our goal is to understand the pathogenesis of CBD/CVD among HIV cohorts on ART, in Sub-Saharan Africa, and provide data to inform future interventional clinical trials. This study runs between May 2017 and August 2020. Results of the main trial will be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.Trial registration numberISRCTN42862937.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ open

Publication Date





Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, UK.


Investigators of the RHICCA study, Humans, Herpesviridae, HIV Infections, Cerebrovascular Disorders, Cardiovascular Diseases, Inflammation, Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active, Risk Assessment, Risk Factors, Regression Analysis, Cohort Studies, Virus Activation, Research Design, Adult, Malawi, Carotid Intima-Media Thickness, Pulse Wave Analysis, Biomarkers