Gilead Sciences Inc said on Tuesday first-quarter profit rose 21 percent, topping analysts' expectations, on increased sales of its drugs to treat the virus that causes AIDS.

Gilead repeated its forecast for 2009 product sales of $5.9 billion to $6 billion, but shares still rose nearly 4 percent after hours on relief that sales trajectories are on track.

The forecast does not include products from cardiovascular drug maker CV Therapeutics, which Gilead acquired last week.

It's just very early in the year and we're very reluctant to (update the outlook) until we have a couple of quarters under our belt and really understand what's going on, especially with foreign currency fluctuations, Gilead President and Chief Operating Officer John Milligan said on a conference call.

The Foster City, California-based biotechnology company also said HIV drug Atripla, which combines Gilead's Truvada with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co's Sustiva into a single pill, has been approved for reimbursement in France.

France, the largest market for HIV drugs outside of the United States, accounts for 28 percent of prescriptions in the five largest European markets.

Gilead posted a net profit of $589.1 million, or 63 cents per share, compared with a profit of $488.3 million, or 51 cents per share, a year ago.

The results came in ahead of the average analyst estimate of 59 cents a share, as compiled by Reuters Estimates.

Revenue rose 22 percent to $1.53 billion, slightly ahead of analyst expectations of $1.5 billion.

This is a huge relief to see them put up what looks like really solid revenue numbers, said Sanford Bernstein analyst Geoffrey Porges. In the current environment for a company to put up a 6 percent EPS beat and on key products coming in ahead of expectations, will be viewed with considerable relief.

Product sales rose 27 percent for the quarter to $1.45 billion.

They kept expenses lower than expectations and led to the EPS beat, said Jason Kantor at RBC Capital Markets. In a frothy market this might not have been considered the highest quality quarter, but given that expectations were that these guys might miss it was a welcome beat.

Sales of the AIDS drug Truvada rose 23 percent to $590.4 million for the quarter, while sales of the newer Atripla jumped 57 percent to $509.9 million.

Other antiviral product sales, including the older AIDS drug Viread, decreased 1 percent to $240.6 million.

We have multiple catalysts over the remainder of the year including presentation of important data at medical conferences and expanding pipeline of promising compounds in the clinic, Milligan said.

Gilead shares, which reached a 52-week high of $57.63 in August, were up 3.8 percent at $45.40 after hours.

(Additional reporting by Bill Berkrot; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Andre Grenon)