November 6, 2012
HIV Meds and Alcohol Not a Toxic Mix, Yet Many Skip Doses While Drinking
Nearly half of all HIV-positive people who both take antiretrovirals
(ARVs) and drink alcohol report skipping or stopping their meds while
drinking, seriously compromising their CD4 counts and viral suppression.
While much of past research on this phenomenon has focused on how
alcohol impairs cognitive functioning, according to new study findings,
people were significantly more likely to miss doses while drinking if
they wrongly believed that mixing alcohol and ARVs is toxic to the body.
The study was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine and
has been reported in several media outlets, though many have
erroneously reported that half of all HIV-positive people on ARVs skip
meds while drinking (in fact, those who don’t drink, a significant
percentage, weren’t enrolled in the study).
study, researchers from the Department of Psychology at the University
of Connecticut recruited 178 people taking ARVs who drink and followed
them for 12 months. In addition to studying their beliefs about the
supposed hazards of mixing alcohol with ARVs (previous studies have
found that as many as one in four people with HIV who drink harbor these
erroneous beliefs), the researchers monitored the study participants’
alcohol use, HIV medication adherence and their CD4 counts and viral
loads. Those holding false beliefs about toxicity were much more likely
to fall into the 51 percent of the cohort who skipped or stopped their
ARVs while drinking. This group was less likely to keep their viral
loads undetectable and more likely to have a CD4 count less than 200.
The paper stressed the need to correct the misinformation about mixing
alcohol and ARVs and also to push for better medication adherence among
To read the study’s abstract, click here.
Search: HIV, medications, antiretrovirals, ARVs, toxic, mix, CD4, viral load, skip doses, viral suppression, Journal of General Internal Medicine, Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, false beliefs, cognitive impairment.
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