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Effect of alcohol on efficacy of HIV meds &on disease progression

Mar 20, 2006

I have AIDS. I have not had alcohol since my diagnosis 8 months ago, at which time I began taking HEART meds. Would it be okay to have one glass of wine with dinner every 2-4 weeks? Even if the risks to my health are low w/ 1-2 glasses a month, what exactly are the risks.

Response from Dr. Horwath

Drinking too much alcohol can weaken your immune system, which means that you will have a harder time fighting off AIDS-related infections. A weaker immune system also increases the chance that you will experience side effects from your HIV medications.

The organ in your body that alcohol affects most is your liver. The liver clears waste from chemicals that you put in your body, including alcohol and prescription drugs, such as your HIV medications. Using alcohol puts greater stress on the liver's ability to clear these various toxic wastes.

Once you are HIV positive, you may react differently to alcohol. Some people find that it takes longer to recover from using alcohol or other recreational drugs than it did before they had HIV.

In summary, alcohol does have potential effects on your immune system and liver, and it may affect you differently than before you were HIV positive. Of course, all of these effects are related to the amount of alcohol that you drink. One of two glasses of wine every month will have a minimal effect, while frequent heavy drinking will probably have disastrous effects.

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