• HIV;
  • Alcohol Dependence;
  • Disease Progression

Background: The relationship between alcohol consumption and HIV disease progression has received limited attention in the era of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).

Methods: We assessed CD4 cell count, HIV RNA levels, and alcohol consumption in the past month, defined as none, moderate, and at risk, in 349 HIV-infected people with a history of alcohol problems. We investigated the relationship between alcohol consumption and HIV disease markers CD4 cell count and HIV RNA level, stratified by HAART use, using multivariable regression.

Results: No significant differences in CD4 cell count or HIV RNA level were found across the categories of alcohol consumption for patients who were not receiving HAART. However, among patients who were receiving HAART, log HIV RNA levels were significantly higher in those with moderate (2.17 copies/ml) and at-risk (2.73 copies/ml) alcohol use compared with none (1.73 copies/ml;p= 0.006). CD4 cell counts in those with moderate (368 cells/μl) and at-risk (360 cells/μl) alcohol use were lower than for subjects who reported none (426 cells/μl;p= 0.07).

Conclusion: Among patients who have a history of alcohol problems and are receiving antiretroviral treatment, alcohol consumption was associated with higher HIV RNA levels and lower CD4 counts. No comparable association was found for similar patients who were not receiving HAART. Addressing alcohol use in HIV-infected patients, especially those who are receiving HAART, may have a substantial impact on HIV disease progression.