Objective: Alcohol use is prevalent among HIV-infected people and is associated with lower antiretroviral adherence and high-risk sexual and injection behaviors. We sought to determine factors associated with alcohol use among HIV-infected women engaged in clinical care and if baseline alcohol use was associated with time to combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) and death in this population.
Methods: In an observational clinical cohort, alcohol consumption at the initial medical visit was examined and categorized as heavy, occasional, past, or no use. We used multinomial logistic regression to test preselected covariates and their association with baseline alcohol consumption. We then examined the association between alcohol use and time to cART and time to death using Kaplan-Meier statistics and Cox proportional hazards regression.
Results: Between 1997 and 2006, 1030 HIV-infected women enrolled in the cohort. Assessment of alcohol use revealed occasional and hazardous consumption in 29% and 17% of the cohort, respectively; 13% were past drinkers. In multivariate regression, heavy drinkers were more likely to be infected with hepatitis C than nondrinkers (relative risk ratios [RRR] 2.06, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.29-3.44) and endorse current drug (RRR 3.51, 95% CI 2.09-5.91) and tobacco use (RRR 3.85 95% CI 1.81-8.19). Multivariable Cox regression adjusting for all clinical covariates demonstrated an increased mortality risk (hazard ratio [HR] 1.40, 95% CI 1.00-1.97, p < 0.05) among heavy drinkers compared to nondrinkers but no delays in cART initiation (1.04 95% CI 0.81-1.34)
Conclusions: Among this cohort of HIV-infected women, heavy alcohol consumption was independently associated with earlier death. Baseline factors associated with heavy alcohol use included tobacco use, hepatitis C, and illicit drug use. Alcohol is a modifiable risk factor for adverse HIV-related outcomes. Providers should consistently screen for alcohol consumption and refer HIV-infected women with heavy alcohol use for treatment.