Slightly more than half of U.S. HIV patients taking antiretroviral drugs skipped their medications when drinking alcohol, according to a new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
Researchers followed 178 people with HIV who were on prescribed retrovirals and drank alcohol. They found that 51 percent stopped taking their medication while drinking.
Some people erroneously believe that mixing alcohol and HIV drugs can be toxic, but researchers report that any harm caused by mixing the two is heavily outweighed by the risks of inconsistent use of HIV medications. Half of the patients in the study who skipped their HIV medications when they drank reported they did not take their pills until after the alcohol was out of their system.
"People living with HIV who deliberately stop their medications when they are drinking are at risk for treatment failure," the researchers wrote.
Researchers found that patients who skipped medications when they drank were more likely to have higher levels of HIV and lower CD4 cells.