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Alcohol and HIV Meds: Dispelling the Myths

, by San Francisco AIDS Foundation

One of your New Year’s resolutions may be to find new ways to keep up with your HIV treatment regimen. Medication adherence is essential to keeping the virus in check and protecting your immune system—but what about mixing alcohol and HIV meds? During holiday toasts and New Year celebrations, this question may have crossed your mind.

You wouldn’t be alone if you opted to forgo your meds while drinking: A study presented last summer at the 7th International Conference on HIV Treatment and Prevention Adherence found that fully half the study participants deliberately skipped doses when drinking, primarily because they were afraid the combination of alcohol and antiretroviral drugs would be toxic.

But, say researchers and clinicians, you can take your meds even when you’re drinking. “On a day-to-day basis, if you drink, you should still take your pills,” said the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s Susan Buchbinder, MD, at a public forum in 2012. “If you come in regularly, we can check to see if it is causing a problem, and then we’ll deal with that problem. …But you’re going to be healthier taking your meds than not taking them.”

For another take on why consuming alcohol needn’t throw off your treatment adherence—and how providers can communicate more effectively with HIV-positive drinkers—see Benjamin Ryan’s article from Poz.com (excerpted below).

Mixed Messages on Meds and Booze

By Benjamin Ryan

December 3, 2012

In the ongoing struggle to improve adherence to HIV medications, alcohol has long been an obvious crux standing in the way of progress. Brian Risley, manager of the treatment education program at AIDS Project Los Angeles, says some of the common refrains he hears from his HIV-positive clients are, “They got drunk, they forgot to take their meds; they went home with somebody and they didn’t bring any meds with them.”

Now cutting-edge research has teased out a new component of booze’s detrimental effects on health outcomes: the fact that many people with HIV skip their meds on purpose when they are drinking because they falsely believe that antiretrovirals (ARVs) and alcohol are a toxic mix…

Click here to read the full story on Poz.com.

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