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Alcohol Use And HIV – How Does Alcohol Use Affect People With HIV?

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Alcohol use can have a negative impact on every aspect of a person’s life. This is especially true when it comes to an individual’s health. Abusing alcohol can increase a person’s risk of developing certain diseases and make treatment for health conditions less effective. One health condition that alcohol use has a significant negative impact on is HIV.

Several studies have shown that alcohol use and use can be especially dangerous for people diagnosed with HIV. In fact, a recent study found that individuals with HIV who drink even one to two drinks a day are at an increased risk of alcohol-related health issues and death.

Alcohol use can also increase a person’s risk of contracting HIV in the first place. Abusing alcohol can cause someone to participate in risky behavior, which can make a person more susceptible to the initial infection of HIV.

Let’s look at the many ways that alcohol use can affect people with HIV.

What Is HIV?

HIV, which stands for human immunodeficiency virus, is a virus that can result in acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) if not properly treated. HIV is contracted through the spreading of certain body fluids. Once a person has HIV, he or she will live with this condition for life.

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This virus attacks the CD4 (or T cells) in the body, which are an important part of the immune system. CD4 cells work by helping the immune system fight off infections. When HIV goes untreated, the virus can significantly decrease the amount of CD4 cells and reduce the body’s ability to ward off infections and diseases.

There is currently no cure for HIV. However, HIV can be managed with antiretroviral therapy (ART). When taken properly and continuously, ART can significantly reduce the effects of HIV and drastically improve a person’s longevity and overall quality of life.

Does Alcohol Use Impact HIV?

Research has shown that the effects of alcohol are more significant in people who have HIV compared to those who don’t. This means that even regular alcohol use can have a significant impact on the health of someone with HIV. This is true even in those individuals whose virus has been suppressed through treatment.

Unfortunately, alcohol use among individuals with HIV is high. In fact, some studies have shown that people who are HIV positive are twice as likely to participate in heavy drinking than those who are not.

Ways in which alcohol can negatively impact a person with HIV include:

  • decrease the likelihood a person will adhere to a medication regimen
  • increase the risk of hepatic injury
  • increase the possibility of side effects experienced from medication
  • change the way in which medication acts in the body
  • reduce the likelihood that someone will practice safe sex
  • increase the risk of liver damage

Additionally, alcohol is known to weaken a person’s immune system. This is especially harmful to people with HIV, since the virus itself significantly impacts a person’s immune system. By further weakening the immune system, alcohol use raises an individual’s risk of infection as well as increases the likelihood of damage done by the virus itself.

What’s more, people who are HIV positive and use alcohol are less likely to have positive results when taking antiretroviral medications. In fact, someone who uses alcohol is two to four times less likely to experience improvement from ART.

Getting Treatment For Alcohol Use

Substance and alcohol use are directly correlated with the increased risk of contracting HIV and the decreased effectiveness of HIV treatment. People who use alcohol while undergoing HIV treatment are much more likely to experience a number of complications, including increased infections and liver damage.

Getting treatment for alcohol use and addiction is imperative for individuals who are also HIV positive. There are several treatment options available for overcoming an alcohol addiction, many of which can be administered alongside HIV treatment.

Many people find great success through formal treatment programs such as inpatient alcohol rehab treatment. Inpatient programs require individuals to participate in residential treatment for several weeks or months. Many programs provide customized plans of recovery for each patient.

To learn more about how alcohol use affects people with HIV, contact a treatment specialist today.