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J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2012 Jul 1;60(3):282-8. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0b013e318256625f.

Untreated HIV infection is associated with higher blood alcohol levels.

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Department of Psychiatry, Addiction Medicine Research, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA.



Alcohol abuse has been associated with HIV/AIDS progression, but the effects of HIV infection and treatment on alcohol exposure have not been explored to date. This pilot study examines the relationship of untreated HIV infection to blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) relative to BAC after initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART).


Fifteen volunteers with untreated HIV/AIDS participated in 2 sets of alcohol or alcohol placebo administration studies before and after initiation of ART. Oral alcohol (1 g/kg) or alcohol placebo was administered, participants were followed for pharmacokinetics, subjective responses, and cognitive effects over 8 hours. After initial alcohol studies, the ART regimen selected by participant clinicians was instituted. Observed ART dosing took place for at least 2 weeks. Participants then returned for a second set of alcohol/placebo administration studies while on ART.


Participants had significantly higher BAC (P < 0.001) before ART than after ART administration. Alcohol area under the curve was significantly higher in untreated HIV disease (P = 0.011) with significantly higher C(max) (P = 0.015) and C(min) (P = 0.05). The elimination rate was not different between pre-ART and post-ART conditions. Despite declines in BAC after ART initiation, no differences in subjective responses were observed with alcohol administration.


Untreated HIV infection is associated with risk for higher BAC than that observed after ART. These findings indicate that patients with untreated HIV disease who ingest alcohol are at greater risk for alcohol associated adverse events and toxicities and underscores the need for simultaneous treatment of alcohol use disorders and HIV in patients with co-occurring conditions.

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