Lifetime Drinking Trajectories Among Veterans in Treatment for HIV


Reprint requests: Theodore Jacob, PhD, Family Research Center, Veterans Administration Palo Alto Health Care System, 795 Willow Road (MC: 151-J), Menlo Park, CA 94025-2539; Tel.: 650-617-2755; Fax: 650-617-2756; E-mail:

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the Department of Veterans Affairs.



Previous work on the course of drinking across the life course identified 4 distinct patterns of problem drinking: severe chronic (SC), severe nonchronic (SNC), late onset (LO), and young adult (YA). The purpose of the current study was to determine the generalizability of these findings to a sample of midlife veterans with quite different characteristics from those previously assessed; specifically, veterans in treatment for HIV and veterans in treatment for non-HIV medical issues.


Participants were drawn from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study that included HIV-positive and matched non-HIV participants. As in our earlier studies, the lifetime drinking history was used to assess drinking phases, and latent growth mixture models were used for analyses.


Similar to previous findings, both the HIV+ and non-HIV groups exhibited 4 patterns of drinking (SC, SNC, LO, and YA). SC drinkers had younger ages of onset for drinking and longer duration of smoking. SC drinkers also had the highest rates of cocaine use. Within the HIV+ subsample, SC and LO drinkers increased their drinking after their HIV diagnosis.


This study is the first to examine lifetime drinking patterns among those treated for HIV and provides an excellent starting point for examining finer-grained relationships involving drinking, onset of HIV, and treatment outcomes. Absent from the current study and of particular importance to future work in this area is the need for precise information regarding the temporal relationship between date of HIV diagnosis, onset of treatment, and changes in drinking behavior over the life course.