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Preventing Obesity and Hypertension Among People Living with HIV

Red ribbon for HIV awareness against blue background

The goals of the HIV, Obesity, and Hypertension Project include preventing and managing obesity and hypertension among people living with HIV. The goals will be achieved through physical activity, nutrition, and hypertension management strategies implemented at both clinical and community contexts.

In April 2019, MDHHS awarded grants to 1) Community AIDS Resource and Education Services (CARES) of Southwest Michigan, 2) UNIFIED - HIV Health and Beyond (Detroit), and 3) Corktown Health Center to implement the HIV, Obesity, and Hypertension Project. The grantees will use the funds to identify, treat and refer people living with HIV who have hypertension, above-normal BMI, or both conditions to healthy eating and physical activity programs in their home communities.

For more information about the Michigan HIV, Obesity, and Hypertension Project, contact Stephanie Levey at 517-335-9595 (e-mail:

Why work to prevent obesity and hypertension and treat these conditions among people living with HIV?
  • While a reduction in HIV mortality has been observed, people living with the virus have been found to be at higher risk for cardiovascular disease. (Cerrato, et al, 2015)
  • In a study of people living with HIV, researchers found a two-fold increased risk of acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) and coronary heart disease. (Triant, 2013)
  • People living with HIV also have an increased risk for stroke (Rasmussen, et al., 2011), sudden cardiac death (Tseng, et al., 2012), and congestive heart failure (Butt, et al., 2011).
  • A study of patients with HIV revealed a very high prevalence of hypertension (34 percent), compared with patients in the control group (12 percent). (Gazzaruso, et al., 2003)
  • Research indicates that people living with HIV are consuming more fat, less fiber, less fruit, and fewer vegetables than recommended in the current U.S. dietary guidelines. (Hernandez, et al., 2017)
  • What is most concerning is that obesity - a factor closely linked to cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome - doubles among people living with HIV who are on antiretroviral therapy. (Koethe, et al., 2016)
  • While the pathways between HIV and cardiovascular disease are still being mapped, the epidemiological evidence provides impetus for MDHHS to extend the lives of people living with HIV through a comprehensive obesity and cardiovascular disease prevention program.
What is the Cardiovascular Health, Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity Section doing to address the health issue?

? HIV, Obesity, and Hypertension (HOH) Program Profile

Together, HOH Program staff and partners work to:

  • Equip medical case managers with the necessary knowledge to provide clients with information about obesity and hypertension prevention strategies recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), such as the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan and physical activity.
  • Enhance existing social support groups for people living with HIV with resources and training to create and maintain a walking club or other potential physical activity intervention.
  • Engage health systems by establishing a process for identification and referral for people living with HIV who have clinical markers for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome (obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess fat, and high cholesterol).
  • Develop and implement program sustainability planning to ensure continued program delivery after the end of the four-year project.
What can people living with HIV do to prevent obesity and hypertension?
  • Follow the DASH eating plan. Consume high amounts of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and low-fat dairy products. Consume low amounts of red meat and sugars.
  • Get at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as walking, each week.
  • Maintain a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 to 24.9.
Where can I get more information?

Return to Cardiovascular Health, Nutrition & Physical Activity Section home page


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