Objective. To evaluate alcohol use in patients with HIV infection, assess ethnic and social associations, and describe outcomes. Material and methods. Design: cohort study. Setting: Academic HIV-Liver Clinic. Patients: 431 HIV-infected patients (371 men, 60 women); 249 patients with HIV/HCV coinfection, 115 HIV alone, and 67 with HIV/HBV. Intervention: alcohol use was estimated at first interview and reported as the estimated average lifetime consumption in grams/day. Outcome measures: laboratory values, liver fibrosis, decompensation and mortality. Results. Twenty-two percent of patients in the entire cohort had high risk lifetime average alcohol consumption, defined as ≥ 50 mg/day. Fifty-six percent of patients had quit all alcohol when first evaluated, but follow-up showed that 26% continued high risk consumption. By univariate analysis high alcohol consumption was associated with Latino ethnicity, injection drug use (IDU) and hepatitis C (HCV) coinfection. Multivariable analysis showed only IDU to be independently associated with high alcohol consumption (RR = 4.1, p = 0.0005). There were no significant differences in laboratory values, including CD4 cell counts, except for a trend towards higher transaminases and liver fibrosis scores, between high and low alcohol users. All-cause mortality was statistically higher in the high (37%) vs. low (25%, p = 0.03) alcohol use group, and was associated with both IDU (RR = 2.2, p = 0.04) and the amount of alcohol consumed (RR = 1.1, p = 0.04). Liver decompensation and mortality were both higher in the high use group but of borderline significance. Using an ordinal grouping, we found a strong correlation (R = 0.88) between alcohol consumption and the percentage of liver death over total deaths, with lowest mortality rates found in those use of 10 g/day or less. Conclusions. Unsafe use of alcohol is prevalent in HIVinfected patients and stoppage is not universal. There is a significant impact on all-cause mortality and a trend towards higher liver morbidity and mortality. IDU is significantly and independently associated with high ethanol intake. Practitioners should strongly recommend that HIV patients minimize alcohol use.
Key words. HIV infection, Ethanol, Drug users, Hepatitis C virus, Hepatitis B virus, Seroprevalence, Viral infections