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

Brian Houle, Chodziwadziwa W. Kabudula, Andrea M. Tilstra, Sanyu A. Mojola, Enid Schatz, Samuel J. Clark, Nicole Angotti, F. Xavier Gómez-Olivé, Jane Menken

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2 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number387
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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


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