The concurrent abuse of alcohol by HIV positive patients has been proven to reduce immunologic functioning in those not receiving retro viral therapy. Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine have shown that what animal and cellular studies have indicated remains true within human populations, and that alcohol use in certain HIV positive populations increases the pace of disease progression.
Researchers suspect that heavy alcohol use decreases immunologic capabilities in HIV positive patients, and that it may achieve this lessening of immune response through accelerated HIV replication in the lymphocytes. The researchers examined the case files of almost 600 alcohol dependent HIV positive patients, and did statistical analysis on the data (controlling for significant variables) and they determined that alcohol plays a significant role in accelerating the progression of the disease, particularly through reducing CD4 cell counts amongst people not using retro viral therapies.
Patients that were using retro viral therapies did not show the same CD4 cell count decreases. The researchers call for greater therapeutic interventions for people with HIV and who use alcohol to excess, and note that brief medical interventions have proven very effective in getting people without addictions to reduce their consumption. The substance abuse treatment of people with already compromised health needs to be a priority, and although alcoholism or drug abuse is harmful to anyone, HIV positive and other chronic disease sufferers need rapid intervention to improve their general health, and increase treatment compliance.
Easier said than done I know…but with every year bringing more positive treatments to the fight against HIV and AIDS, we need to ensure that the hard earned gains of research into HIV therapies are not undone by concurrent and untreated substance abuse.