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HIV and drinking (asymptomatic or on meds)
May 29, 2003

Hi Nelson,

As a heavy drinker, I am aware of the effects alcohol has on the body of healthy (HIV negative) people. I used to get the sniffles, diarhea in the mornings, and noticed colds develop after drinking for 12 hours straight, then having to sleep it off all day.

Basically I had what I now would describe to be as impaired immune function as a result of heavy drinking (Is this correct?).

Anyway, assuming that 'benders' do in fact impair the immune system, what effects would heavy, regular drinking have on the T-cell/viral loads of an asymptomatic HIVer?

Is it OK to drink like a fish now then change my ways when I start treatment? Also, once treatment has begun, how much drinkng is too much (if you can till manage to be 100adherent)

Finally, how about hevy boozing during the acute phase?

Thank you for any advice you have, and good luck.

Response from Mr. Vergel

In an article published by Reuters Health on April 26, 2001 it was reported that, at the annual meeting of the American Society of Addiction Medicine in 2001, researchers from the University of Miami presented their findings on the impact of heavy alcohol use on anti-HIV therapy. The researchers analysed data from 220 HIV positive subjects who were substance users. They defined heavy alcohol consumption as the intake of 3 to 4 drinks per week or daily drinking.

Their results were as follows:

63% of subjects were heavy alcohol users

21% drank alcohol either weekly or monthly

16% did not drink alcohol (non-users)

most of the heavy alcohol users were men and most of the non-users were women

The researchers noted that subjects using highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and who were also heavy alcohol drinkers were four times less likely to achieve a low viral load compared to subjects who were not heavy drinkers. The researchers concluded that "heavy alcohol use appears to significantly affect HAART" and may also reduce the ability of the immune system to repair itself. Another point to consider is that heavy alcohol use may have affected the ability of people in the study to adhere to their drug regimen.

I would try really hard to go into a program to stop drinking, get a sponsor and start attending AA meetings if I was you. Alcohol can also affect your liver and increase the cahnces for insulin resistance and possibly lipodystrophy.



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