November 3, 2011
A new study will investigate whether the prescription drug naltrexone can help women living with HIV reduce their alcohol consumption and improve their overall health. The study will be run by University of Florida researchers, who received a $2.7 million grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
"Alcohol consumption can be harmful in persons with HIV infection if it affects the ability to take medications on schedule, causes people to make poor decisions, or has direct harmful effects on the immune system or other parts of the body," said the study's lead investigator Robert Cook, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of epidemiology and medicine at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions and the College of Medicine. "It is the same with any chronic disease, such as diabetes. Our goals are to identify simple and acceptable treatment options that can help reduce these harmful effects." ...
... In an earlier long-term study of alcohol consumption in women with HIV, Cook and colleagues found that 14 percent to 24 percent of the women reported hazardous drinking in the past year. Hazardous alcohol consumption is defined as having four or more drinks daily or seven or more drinks in a week. Previous studies have shown elevated risk for adverse health effects in people with HIV who consume hazardous amounts of alcohol, including higher levels of HIV virus, lower medication adherence, increased risky sexual behavior and more rapid disease progression.
UF researchers, with colleagues from Florida International University and the University of Miami, will study whether the prescription medication naltrexone can reduce hazardous drinking in women with HIV and improve their health outcomes. Naltrexone has been found to decrease alcohol use in previous studies of men with severe drinking problems, but has not been tested exclusively in women or in people with HIV infection, Cook said. Researchers also will assess important clinical measures, such as adherence to HIV medications, white blood cell counts, levels of HIV virus present in the body and risky sexual behavior.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 290,000 women are living with HIV/AIDS in the United States, with Florida ranking second among U.S. states. Most of the study participants will be recruited from the Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas. Given Florida's racial and ethnic diversity, researchers hope the study will provide a better understanding of how cultural issues and differences impact HIV-positive women and their relationships with alcohol and how treatment and interventions can be applied throughout the rest of the country. This study is just one of three involving Florida universities studying alcohol use among women living with HIV.
Warren Tong is the research editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
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