Even Drinking a Moderate Amount of Alcohol Can be Harmful for HIV Patients

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Drinking is harmful for HIV patientsA new cohort study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence has shown that those living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) may need to decrease what is considered a safe limit for alcohol consumption compared to those who do not carry HIV. The case is even stronger for people with HIV undergoing antiretroviral therapy.

According to the study, drinking more than one glass of alcohol a day greatly increased the morbidity rate in men with HIV. The cohort study was done so that researchers could draw some conclusions about whether there was a direct correlation between alcohol consumption and the harm it could impose on people living with HIV.

Over 60,000 men were involved in the study; 18,145 with HIV and 42,228 without. The study only involved male military veterans who were seeking assistance from the Veterans Health Administration health care facilities and who were also enrolled in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS). The average ages of the men involved in the study were 52 for those with HIV and 54 for those without.

What researchers determined in this study is that “HIV-positive individuals consuming more than 30 drinks per month are at increased risk of all-cause mortality and physiologic frailty. This would translate to a recommended drinking limit … of no more than one drink containing alcohol per day.” Other reasons those with HIV should avoid alcohol is that if they are on treatment, alcohol can interfere with their medications. It can also be a factor in liver disease, which can affect how HIV progresses within the body.

Beyond the increased personal risk of death for a person infected with HIV, alcohol use (and abuse) has other risk factors associated with it. It can impair judgment, leading to risky sexual behaviors. Heavy drinkers may find it difficult to follow the recommended and often complex regimen of medications prescribed to those with HIV/AIDS; in fact, they may even delay getting tested for HIV altogether or delay getting treatment should they test positive for it. Not only is this dangerous for the person with HIV, but it could also mean that they might infect others.

In the United States today there are 1.1 million people affected with HIV. Every year, about 55,000 to 60,000 people become infected. The infection affects the immune system, presenting symptoms including fever, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, diarrhea, oral thrush, and shingles. It can eventually progress to AIDS.

A recent report suggests how HIV and tuberculosis (TB) are the leading causes of death among infectious diseases.
The death rates for both HIV and TB have been on the decline—but HIV supersedes TB when it comes to funding and treatment efforts. Global expenditures on HIV prevention and treatment are about ten times the amount spent on combating tuberculosis.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Justice, Amy C., et al, “Risk of mortality and physiologic injury evident with lower alcohol exposure among HIV infected compared with uninfected men,” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, January 2016; DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2016.01.017.
“HIV/AIDS,” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism web site; http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/special-populations-co-occurring-disorders/hivaids, last accessed February 10, 2016.