The green beer is coming. But, if you’re living with HIV, there are a few things you should know before you choose to imbibe. With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, UNM Truman Health Services is here to give you the facts on how drinking can affect HIV treatment in the short and long term.
Fact: Drinking Does Not Interact with HIV Meds
When taken consistently and correctly, antiretroviral drugs can lower your viral load and help you maintain your health. There is no evidence that negative drug interactions can occur when drinking alcohol during treatment. Additionally, alcohol does not reduce the effectiveness of HIV medication. However, there are other factors that can impact your health while living with HIV.
Fact: Alcohol Compromises the Immune System
Habitual alcohol drinkers are at a higher risk of getting colds, viruses, and other illnesses. If you are living with HIV, your immune system is already weak and susceptible to illness. Alcohol use only makes your immune system more vulnerable.
Fact: Alcohol Hurts Your Liver
Your liver is your body’s primary detox system. It is the place where everything from pollution to prescription drugs are broken down so your body is not poisoned. When receiving medical treatment for HIV, your liver is already working hard to handle antiretroviral therapy. Adding alcohol use on top of this can overload your liver, causing long-term damage.
Fact: Drinking Impairs Judgment
Alcohol use can significantly impact your ability to make better choices for your health. Statistically, HIV+ individuals are less likely to adhere to their medication schedule if they are using alcohol. Risky sexual behavior and drug use are more likely, too.
Fact: Moderate Drinking is Okay
For HIV+ individuals, moderation is the key. Overall, it is heavy alcohol use (daily drinking, binge drinking) that can cause the most problems, physically and behaviorally. Moderate drinkers typically only drink a few times a month or on special occasions.
Fact: We Can Help
UNM Truman Health Services provides comprehensive care for anyone living with HIV in New Mexico. In addition to medical treatment, our patients have access to substance use treatment. If you are struggling with alcohol use or think you may be HIV-positive, contact us today to make an appointment.