A small study on the matter of why HIV patients stop taking their Antiretroviral therapy (ART) meds has been released in the Journal of General Internal Medicine in October, 2012.  449 HIV patients participated in the study and 71% of those were drinking alcohol during the course of the study.

Researchers have been worried about the lack of adherence among  HIV patients and set a study in motion to discover the causes. It’s kind of remarkable that there is such a low level of adherence in this group; after all, for the ART meds to work it requires a very high level of medication adherence on the part of every patient.

One issue that the study probed is whether the HIV patients were forgoing their meds in order to drink alcohol without complications or that these patients were becoming forgetful due to the intake of alcohol.  The study confirmed some earlier studies that these patients are intentionally skipping their meds. The Reuthers Health article quotes a researcher at the Center for AIDS Research at the University of North Carolina, who was not involved in the study, “It’s pretty remarkable that about 50% of their patients reported doing this.”

It turns out that there is a myth circulating in the HIV community that a patient cannot drink alcohol while taking the ART meds. There are lots of studies done in which doctors admonish their participants not to drink alcohol and a professor at Wayne State University suggested that this might also be a basis for the misconception. Researchers wanted to find out who believes that alcohol might interfere with the ART meds so a study along the lines of socioeconomic levels was launched by Seth Kalichman and some of his associates.  Dr. Kalichman is a professor at the University of Connecticut.

Alcohol does not cause a dangerous level of toxicity on it’s own. One of the possible misconceptions may spring from the complications that do exist for patients who have HIV and are co-infected with Hepatitis C virus. But no evidence surfaced during the study that there were any additional dangers created with alcohol while on the ART meds. It almost goes without saying that over indulgence of alcohol, while using any drug or not, may cause some serious problems for the user. But, there, I said it anyway.

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