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AlcoholThe Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS) was designed to look at alcohol consumption and whether it was more harmful in the HIV positive population compared to HIV negative population with similar characteristics. The study was published in Journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence

Study Population:

  • 18,145 HIV positive individuals and 42,228 HIV negative individuals who were all in VACS and who had an n “Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test-Consumption” AUDIT-C score recorded between 2008 and 2012.
  • Women were excluded from this study as they only make up 3% of VACS population
  • The median age was 52.5 years for HIV positive men and 54 years for HIV negative men.
  • 31% of the HIV positive men were coinfected with hepatitis c and 16% of HIV negative men had Hepatitis C.
  • 76% HIV positive men had an undetectable viral load


  • HIV positive individuals had a higher risk of mortality compared to HIV negative participants. This was shown at all levels of alcohol consumption (moderate and unhealthy levels)
  • Physiological injury occurred at all levels of alcohol consumption in HIV positive men compared to drinking between 3 and 29 drinks per month was protective for HIV negative individuals

“Despite antiretroviral therapy, HIV-positive individuals experienced increased mortality and physiologic injury at lower levels of alcohol use compared with uninfected individuals,” the study authors concluded. “Alcohol consumption limits should be lower among HIV-positive individuals.”

According to the news release even the consumption of one or two drinks per day was associated with increased risk for people with HIV. “It demonstrates that even among people on ART with suppressed viral load, who are much less sick in general, there is still an added effect of alcohol among those individuals than people without HIV,” said Amy Justice, professor of general medicine and of public health. “It suggests the threshold for safe alcohol consumption is likely different for people with HIV.”



Justice A et al. Risk of mortality and physiologic injury evident with lower alcohol exposure among HIV infected compared with uninfected men. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, advance online publication, February 2016

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