The Impact of Alcohol Use and Related Disorders on the HIV Continuum of Care: a Systematic Review

Panagiotis Vagenas, Marwan M. Azar, Michael M. Copenhaver, Sandra A. Springer, Patricia E. Molina, Frederick L. Altice Current HIV/AIDS reports, 2015; Alcohol and the HIV Continuum of Care

Alcohol use is prevalent globally with numerous negative consequences to human health, including HIV progression, in people living with HIV (PLH).

The HIV continuum of care, or treatment cascade, represents a sequence of targets for intervention that can result in viral suppression, which ultimately benefits individuals and society. The extent to which alcohol impacts each step in the cascade, however, has not been systematically examined.

International targets for HIV treatment as prevention aim for:

  • 90 % of PLH to be diagnosed
  • 90 % of PLH to be prescribed with antiretroviral therapy (ART)
  • 90 % to achieve viral suppression

Currently, only 20 % of PLH are virally suppressed.

This systematic review, from 2010 through May 2015, found 53 clinical research papers examining the impact of alcohol use on each step of the HIV treatment cascade. The results found a 77% negative association between alcohol consumption on one or more stages of the treatment cascade. Lack of consistency in measurement, however, reduced the ability to draw consistent conclusions.

The strong negative correlations suggest that problematic alcohol consumption should be targeted, preferably using evidence-based behavioral and pharmacological interventions, to indirectly increase the proportion of PLH achieving viral suppression, to achieve treatment as prevention mandates, and to reduce HIV transmission.

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