Men living with HIV are at greater risk of developing heart disease, new research in the US has found.

The study, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, showed that men with HIV have more soft plaque buildup in the arteries, a condition called coronary atherosclerosis, than men without the virus – a risk factor for heart attack.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University and other institutes looked at 618 HIV positive men and 383 HIV negative men in the Baltimore/Washington, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles areas.

The men examined in the study were between ages 40 and 70 and had sex with other men.

63% of the HIV positive men in the study had coronary atherosclerosis from soft plaque, compared with 53% of the men without HIV. The increased coronary atherosclerosis association remained true for the HIV positive men even after researchers took into account other heart disease risk factors, such as smoking and high blood pressure.

Researchers also found that men with HIV who had taken antiretroviral drugs for the longest amount of time and whose immune health had worsened the most over the time they’d been infected with HIV were more likely to experience coronary artery blockages from soft plaque.

“Thanks to effective treatments, many people with HIV infection are living into their 50s and well beyond and are dying of non-AIDS-related causes – frequently, heart disease,” Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute Of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a statement. “Consequently, the prevention and treatment of non-infectious chronic diseases in people with HIV infection has become an increasingly important focus of our research.”

Coronary heart disease is the UK’s single biggest killer.

Nearly one in six men and more than one in ten women die from CHD each year.