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HIV-infected men are more sensitive to effects of alcohol

HIV-infected men are more sensitive to effects of alcohol

American researchers of the Yale University School of Medicine and the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion in Pittsburgh have discovered that men with HIV need fewer drinks to experience the effects of alcohol than uninfected men. Their research was recently published in AIDS and Behavior.

It is known that HIV and alcohol do not go well together. According to Amy Justice, PhD, professor of medicine and public health at Yale University, drinking causes harm to the liver and the immune system, just like a HIV infection. “Also, once people have HIV, alcohol makes it less likely they will take their antiretroviral medications”, says Justice.

The researchers assessed the effects of alcohol in HIV-infected men with a retrospective analysis of data of the Veterans Aging Cohort Study. In this trial, 3631 HIV-infected men were compared to 3693 non-infected men that were included between 2002 and 2010. The authors stratified the participants based on their individual viral load. Based on questionnaire data, they assessed drinking behaviour and the feeling the participants got when they would drink alcohol. The results showed that HIV-infected participants with a detectable viral load were more sensitive to the effects of alcohol than HIV-infected men with a suppressed viral load or uninfected men.

The authors do not have an explanation for the found difference, but postulate that a higher alcohol absorption in HIV-infected men with a detectable viral load could be due to an intestinal barrier dysfunction associated with HIV disease. Also, while they think that the BMI of HIV patients could play a role, this could however not be verified because of the relatively small cohort size. They therefore call for more research into this effect, in which also women should play a part. Based on this research, healthcare providers could use the findings to counsel patients regarding the connection of alcohol consumption to HIV infection.

Source: AIDS and Behavior.

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