Twin epidemics: the effects of HIV and systolic blood pressure on mortality risk in rural South Africa, 2010-2019




Houle, Brian
Kabudula, Chodziwadziwa
Tilstra, Andrea M.
Mojola, Sanyu A.
Schatz, Enid
Clark, Samuel J.
Angotti, Nicole
Gomez-Olive, Francesc Xavier
Menken, Jane

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BioMed Central Ltd.


Background Sub-Saharan African settings are experiencing dual epidemics of HIV and hypertension. We investigate effects of each condition on mortality and examine whether HIV and hypertension interact in determining mortality. Methods Data come from the 2010 Ha Nakekela population-based survey of individuals ages 40 and older (1,802 women; 1,107 men) nested in the Agincourt Health and socio-Demographic Surveillance System in rural South Africa, which provides mortality follow-up from population surveillance until mid-2019. Using discrete-time event history models stratified by sex, we assessed differential mortality risks according to baseline measures of HIV infection, HIV-1 RNA viral load, and systolic blood pressure. Results During the 8-year follow-up period, mortality was high (477 deaths). Survey weighted estimates are that 37% of men (mortality rate 987.53/100,000, 95% CI: 986.26 to 988.79) and 25% of women (mortality rate 937.28/100,000, 95% CI: 899.7 to 974.88) died. Over a quarter of participants were living with HIV (PLWH) at baseline, over 50% of whom had unsuppressed viral loads. The share of the population with a systolic blood pressure of 140mm Hg or higher increased from 24% at ages 40-59 to 50% at ages 75-plus and was generally higher for those not living with HIV compared to PLWH. Men and women with unsuppressed viral load had elevated mortality risks (men: adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 3.23, 95% CI: 2.21 to 4.71, women: aOR 2.05, 95% CI: 1.27 to 3.30). There was a weak, non-linear relationship between systolic blood pressure and higher mortality risk. We found no significant interaction between systolic blood pressure and HIV status for either men or women (p>0.05). Conclusions Our results indicate that HIV and elevated blood pressure are acting as separate, non-interacting epidemics affecting high proportions of the older adult population. PLWH with unsuppressed viral load were at higher mortality risk compared to those uninfected. Systolic blood pressure was a mortality risk factor independent of HIV status. As antiretroviral therapy becomes more widespread, further longitudinal follow-up is needed to understand how the dynamics of increased longevity and multimorbidity among people living with both HIV and high blood pressure, as well as the emergence of COVID-19, may alter these patterns.



Mortality, Rural, South Africa, HIV, Hypertension, Blood pressure


Houle, B., Kabudula, C.W., Tilstra, A.M. et al. Twin epidemics: the effects of HIV and systolic blood pressure on mortality risk in rural South Africa, 2010-2019. BMC Public Health 22, 387 (2022).


BMC Public Health


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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License



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