Objective: We examined the relationship between alcohol use trajectories and HIV disease severity among men and women participating in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS).
Design: Prospective cohort of HIV-infected persons in care at eight US Veterans Health Administration sites.
Methods: Between 2002 and 2010, we assessed alcohol consumption annually using the alcohol use disorders identification test-consumption (AUDIT-C). HIV disease severity was ascertained using the VACS index, a validated measure of morbidity and all-cause mortality. We examined the relationship between alcohol use and HIV disease severity patterns using joint trajectory modeling. Alcohol use trajectories were validated using phosphatidylethanol - a biomarker of alcohol consumption - measured between 2005 and 2006 among a subset of participants. We examined associations between membership in alcohol use and VACS index trajectories using multinomial regression.
Results: Among eligible participants, we identified four alcohol consumption trajectories: abstainers (24% of the sample), lower risk (44%), moderate risk (24%), and higher risk drinkers (8%). Alcohol use trajectories were highly correlated with phosphatidylethanol (Cramér's V = 0.465, P < 0.001): mean concentrations were 4.4, 17.8, 57.7, and 167.6 ng/ml in the abstainer, lower risk, moderate risk, and higher risk groups, respectively. Four VACS index trajectories were identified: low (2%), moderate (46%), high (36%), and extreme (16%). Higher risk drinkers were most common in the extreme VACS index group, and were absent in the low index group. In multivariable analysis, the association between alcohol use and VACS index trajectory membership remained significant (P = 0.002).
Conclusion: Alcohol use trajectories characterized by persistent unhealthy drinking are associated with more advanced HIV disease severity among HIV-infected veterans in the United States.