As a part of their study the researchers assessed CD4 cell counts, HIV RNA levels (viral load), and alcohol consumption in 595 HIV-infected persons with alcohol problems.
The relation of HIV disease progression to alcohol consumption was studied using longitudinal regression models controlling for known prognostic factors, including adherence and depressive symptoms, and stratified by antiretroviral therapy (ART) use.
The researchers found that among subjects who were not on ART, heavy alcohol consumption was associated with a lower CD4 cell count, and that among subjects who were on ART, heavy alcohol consumption was not associated with a lower CD4 cell count or higher HIV viral load.
"Alcohol use in patients with a prevalent disease such as HIV, can have important public health consequences," said lead author Jeffrey Samet, MD, MPH, a professor of medicine at BUSM and chief of General Internal Medicine at Boston Medical Center.
"HIV-infected persons who drink alcohol heavily and are not on ART might decrease their risk of disease progression if they abstain from alcohol use," he added.
The study appears online in the August issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.