A team of UCLA researchers has received a $2.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to help address the issue of under-prescribing of heart medications in people who are HIV-positive.

“We’re doing this project because adults with HIV have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease compared to everyone else, and they’re simultaneously less likely to be prescribed evidence-based medicine for cardiovascular disease reduction — especially, statins,” said Dr. Joseph Ladapo, an associate professor of medicine in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Ladapo is co-leading the project with Dr. William Cunningham, a professor of medicine in the Geffen School and a professor of public health in the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

Cardiovascular disease is becoming a major cause of death among HIV-positive adults because they now live longer in developed countries with the availability of effective anti-AIDS drugs. Yet prior research by Ladapo and colleagues found that people who are HIV-positive were significantly less likely than their HIV-negative counterparts to receive statins and other heart disease prevention therapies.

Statins are used by about 40 million adults in the United States older than 40. They are usually prescribed by a primary care doctor or cardiologist because someone is at major risk for or has had a heart attack or stroke, or has other cardiovascular diseases such as stable coronary heart disease or peripheral vascular disease.

Under the four-year award from the NIH’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the UCLA researchers will develop a program to educate adults with HIV about cardiovascular risk, and apply behavioral economics to encourage physicians and nurse practitioners to boost their prescription rates for statins for their HIV-positive patients.