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Should I give up drinking(Is my life truely over?)
May 31, 2003

TO: The Man From: HIV Boozer

Catching HIV has been a bit upleasant (It sucks!).

Anyway, I enjoy a snifter of brandy at Christmas time, if the mood strikes me (I love beer more than life itself!)

As someone who has caught the virus early, I want to begin treatment within the year (ASAP!)

My question is, how much does a one-night bender phase my T-cells during my acute stage, before treatment, and does boozin' it up nightly put me at risk for quick progression? (Am I killing myself)

Also, once I start HARRT, which should be soon as hell, in order to protect my precious immune system, can I still imbibe in that ever so sweet snifter during the holidays (do I need to give up beer to maintain an undetectable VL??)

I know that no drinking is the best way to go on treatment, but is any level of alcohol acceptable as long as I can take my pills on time and w/ proper food?

If not, how much alcohol is acceptable per night? 1-2, 3-4,5-18 brewskies per night? Please disclose any info. you might have regarding this matter. I know it might sound trivial, but for me, it falls under the quality of life category.

Tank yuu mery vuch, Al Coholic.

Response from Dr. Young

Dear HIV boozer-

There isn't a strict contraindication between alcohol and medications. In moderation, a beer or two or glass of wine really won't be an issue with toxicity or effect the potency of your HIV meds. No, you won't kill yourself with moderate alcohol. As far as I'm aware, there is no information about the effects of a bender during acute HIV infection, though I'd speculate that there is little effect on the risk of becoming either a rapid- or slow-progressor. One or three beers shouldn't be a problem, but I'd not be comfortable with a 18 beer night.

Binge drinking, on the other hand does pose some problems-- particularly since "bingers" tend to miss many doses of their HIV medications. Over time, missed doses translates to a dramatically increased liklihood of developing drug resistance and subsequently, treatment failure. To this extent, I'd ask you to monitor your drinking habits-- preferably prior to starting your HIV medications.

Good luck, BY



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