Research has suggested that alcohol may be more harmful if you're living with HIV.
In addition, recent changes to Government guidelines recommend that both men and women should drink no more than 14 units each week.
The recommended Government guidelines have recently been changed to say that both men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week. Previously the guidelines for men were 21 units per week.
It's best to drink less than the recommended maximum of 14 units per week, but if you do drink as many as this they should be spread out over the week, not saved up for a binge. Binge drinking sessions increase your chances of death from illnesses, injuries or accidents.
The reason for these changes to the guidelines is that research has shown that any amount of alcohol increases your risk of mouth, throat and breast cancer, strokes, heart disease, liver disease as well as brain and nervous system damage.
When the previous guidelines were written in 1995 it was thought that there were some benefits to the heart when drinking small amounts of alcohol. It has now been established that this is only true for women who are aged over 55 and drink five units or less each week.
Yes. A recent American study called Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS) compared male military veterans to find out whether alcohol was worse for people living with HIV. It found that men drinking more than around 13 units per week were at an increased risk of death than HIV negative men. This finding just about matches the UKs new guidelines for safe drinking limits of 14 units per week.
Researchers think the reasons for this may be because blood alcohol levels in people with HIV are higher per unit drunk.
Another VACS study found that people with HIV felt drunk after fewer drinks - particularly people with a detectable viral load.
The study only looked at the effects of alcohol in HIV positive men, but concludes that because we know that a unit of alcohol harms women more than men, the finding will most likely apply to women as well, possibly with an even lower recommended number of units per week.
One unit is equivalent to 8g (or 10ml) of pure alcohol. Here’s how the units add up according to NHS Choices:
The following make up 14 units:
In a single episode of drinking the advice is to:
There are no significant interactions between alcohol and HIV drugs. If drinking makes you vomit within an hour of taking HIV medication, take the dose again.
However, you may forget to take your HIV treatment when under the influence of alcohol and heavy drinking will harm your health. It is advisable to reduce your alcohol consumption to a minimum or, preferably, stop drinking altogether if:
The new guidelines advise anyone who is pregnant or trying to conceive not to drink alcohol.
Previously it was thought that it was safe for pregnant women to have one to two units of alcohol per week.
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This article was last reviewed on
by Anna Peters
Date due for the next review: 6/4/2019
Content Author: Kerri Virani
Current Owner: Health promotion
Alcohol guidelines review – report from the guidelines development group to the UK Chief Medical Officers, Department of Health, January 2016
New alcohol guidelines show increased risk of cancer, Department of Health, January 2016
UK Chief Medical Officers’ Alcohol Guidelines Review - Summary of the proposed new guidelines, Department of Health, January 2016
New Government alcohol unit guidelines, Drinkaware, February 2016
Alcohol units, NHS Choices, April 2015
Moderate alcohol consumption may be more harmful to people with HIV, by Keith Alcorn, NAM Aidsmap, February 2016
Drinking and Alcohol, NHS
Alcohol, Michael Carter, NAM aidsmap, April 2011
Various people talk about their experiences of living with HIV.
CAB - Citizens Advice Bureau
HIV Drug Interactions
George House Trust
Equality and Human Rights Commission
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