In HIV-infected drinkers, alcohol types more likely to cause inflammation could plausibly increase the risk of HIV disease progression. We therefore assessed the association between alcohol type and plasma HIV RNA level (HIV viral load) among HIV-infected drinkers not on antiretroviral therapy (ART) in Russia and Uganda. We analyzed the data of participants from cohorts in Russia and Uganda and assessed their HIV viral load at enrollment by the alcohol type predominantly consumed. We defined predominant alcohol type as the alcohol type contributing >50% of total alcohol consumption in the 1 month (Russia) or 3 months (Uganda) prior to enrollment. Using multiple linear regression, we compared log10 HIV viral load by predominant alcohol type, controlling for age, gender, socioeconomic status, total number of standard drinks, frequency of drinking ≥6 drinks/occasion, and in Russia, history of injection drug use. Most participants (99.2% of 261 in Russia and 98.9% of 352 in Uganda) predominantly drank one alcohol type. In Russia, we did not find evidence for differences in viral load levels between drinkers of fortified wine (n = 5) or hard liquor (n = 49), compared to drinkers of beer/low-ethanol-content cocktails (n = 163); however, wine/high-ethanol-content cocktail drinkers (n = 42) had higher mean log10 viral load than beer/low-ethanol-content cocktail drinkers (β = 0.38, 95% CI 0.07-0.69; p = 0.02). In Uganda, we did not find evidence for differences in viral load levels between drinkers of locally-brewed beer (n = 41), commercially-distilled spirits (n = 38), or locally-distilled spirits (n = 43), compared to drinkers of commercially-made beer (n = 218); however, wine drinkers (n = 8) had lower mean log10 HIV viral load (β = -0.65, 95% CI -1.36 to 0.07, p = 0.08), although this did not reach statistical significance. Among HIV-infected drinkers not yet on ART in Russia and Uganda, we observed an association between the alcohol type predominantly consumed and the HIV viral load level in the Russia sample. These exploratory results suggest that, in addition to total number of drinks and drinking patterns, alcohol type might be a dimension of alcohol use that merits examination in studies of HIV and alcohol related outcomes.
Keywords: Alcohol types; HIV viral load; HIV-disease progression; HIV-infected patients; Russia; Uganda.