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Alcohol consumption increases HIV disease progression of patients receiving antiretroviral therapy

  • Both alcohol abuse and HIV infection are believed to compromise immune function.
  • A new study evaluates the relationship between alcohol consumption and HIV disease progression among patients receiving highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART).
  • HIV-infected patients with a history of alcohol problems, who are receiving HAART, and are currently drinking, have greater HIV progression than those who do not drink.

In the United States, alcohol problems appear to be more prevalent among people with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) than among the general population. Both alcohol abuse and HIV infection are believed to compromise immune function. In fact, alcohol use may accelerate HIV disease progression. Recent research, published in the May issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, has found that HIV-infected patients with a history of alcohol problems, who are receiving highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), and are currently drinking, have greater HIV progression than those who do not drink.

"Part of our interest in examining the relationship between alcohol use and HIV infection was based on clinical experience," explained Jeffrey H. Samet, professor of medicine and public health at Boston University, and the study's first author. "In the urban setting where I work, a substantial number of patients - with or without HIV, but even more so with HIV - have had alcohol problems. In the world before HIV, we knew that chronic alcohol use led to problems that are more common in immunodeficiency states such as tuberculosis and pneumonia. Of course we also know that HIV attacks the immune system. So you can pose the question, 'could these two things - HIV and alcohol - be interacting in some way that makes the immune state worse than just HIV alone?'"

"Although we do not yet understand how alcohol directly interacts with the already compromised immune system of a human infected with
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14-May-2003


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