Study: Alcohol use linked with higher HIV viral loads, lower T-cell counts

A study by researchers at Boston University shows that HIV-positive people taking antiretroviral drugs who are regular drinkers tend to have higher viral loads and lower T-cell counts than nondrinkers, Reuters Health reports. Because little differences were found in viral loads and T-cell counts among both nondrinkers and drinkers who were not taking anti-HIV drugs, the researchers theorize that alcohol use may affect the ability to stick to an antiretroviral regimen. The study, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, offers "suggestive evidence that alcohol plays a role in outcomes of people with HIV," said lead researcher Jeffrey Samet. "Attention to the alcohol consumption in HIV patients is important for both physicians and patients." The researchers called for larger, longer studies to better evaluate the impact of alcohol use on drug adherence and its possible effects on HIV disease progression.

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