Q and A

Question

I am HIV positive – can I drink alcohol or eat pork?

Hello,

I’m 29 years old and have been HIV positive for almost one year. I have known about my status since December last year. I’m currently living in Germany due to studies and I would like return to my country (Mexico) at the end of this year. My questions are:

1) I have attached the results from the last analysis that have been done and I would like to hear your overall opinion on these and if I should focus in some particular issue.

2) I’m aware that between the last two analyses I went to a party and I drank too much alcohol (about 1.5liters) and I regret it. When you are not on therapy is the alcohol more likely to affect me than when I am on therapy? I mean does it decrease my CD4 and increase my viral load? I don’t want to drink alcohol anymore but it would be nice to know.

3) The Dr. suggested I should not eat pork. I am making big changes in my lifestyle (diet, exercise, etc) and I would like to know if it is possible to estimate when I should start the therapy? I’m worried since I don’t know if I’m going to stay in Germany or move back to Mexico. I’ll be able to know by the end of this year but not before.

My Dr. provided me with this website and I find it amazing with all the information that it’s available for us to learn about the subject.

I really want to thank you all for the great work you do!

Answer

Thank you for your question, and for the feedback – and for your doctor :)

I will try and answer your questions according to the numbers you have given above.

1) Firstly, we are not doctors but HIV treatment advocates.

Monitoring your blood tests you should focus mainly on your CD4 count, your CD4% and your viral load. If you have changes in your liver enzymes, cholesterol or kidney function tests then you would need to monitor those as well.

2) Drinking alcohol will not affect your viral load or CD4 count. T

Moderate alcohol use should not be a problem. It is your decision if you don’t want to drink anymore but it should be because it is what you want to do rather than because you are HIV positive.

The reason you may have been to told to avoid excessive alcohol is that excessive alcohol use can damage the liver. The liver is the organ that filters drugs from the blood so if the liver is damaged then the body has trouble with the HIV treatments.

However, an interesting study showed that HIV positive people not on treatment, might have higher levels of alcohol, (than on ART).
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22495786

Also excessive alcohol use can mean that people on medication may forget to take their treatment. This can lead to resistance which means the medication will no longer work.

3. Being HIV positive doesn’t mean you need to change your diet – other than to a more healthy one. A more healthy lifestyle is good for lots of reasons but can still eat the foods your want, including pork. Perhaps ask your doctor the reason they said this.

4. Since 2105, HIV treatment (ART) in generally recommended for everyone, even at high CD4 counts. This means it is good for everyone to think about HIV treatment.

If there are practical issue that mean you cant get treatment for a short time, then if your CD4 count is very high (over 500), this is usually also okay.

Once on treatment your viral load should become undetectable within the first three months.

This Introduction to ART has lots more information.

This answer was updated in January 2017 from a Q&A first posted in May 2010.

279 comments

  1. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Jude,

    It’s great that you’ve been on HIV treatment (ART) for a year and your viral load is undetectable. The good news is that Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U). U=U can protect your wife and your unborn child from HIV.

    U=U protection using treatment (ART) depends on: Being on stable ART for several months. Having an undetectable viral load for several months. And continuing to take your meds every day.

    Please see this link more info about U=U.

  2. Jude

    Please I want to know, I started treatment may last year, and I think I’m undetected because my viral load is below 20 copies, my question is if I impregnate my wife now without she taking any drugs as I’m undetected would she be infected and would my unborn baby be infected with HIV?

  3. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Chukwudi,

    It looks like your partner’s ARVs are working well. The viral load of less than 20 copies/mL means HIV is undetectable.

    Having an undetectable viral load on antiretrovial treatment (ART) means HIV can not be transmitted when you don’t use condoms. So this is good news for your partner and yourself.

    Please see more info at this link to Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U).

  4. Chukwudi

    Hello. I have been having unprotected sex with my partner, and she has been HIV positive since she was 10years, I just got to know today. We have been dating for four months now. She has been on antiretroviral drugs(TEL) for two years now and her viral load is less than 20 with her CD4 above 500, could I be infected?

  5. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Unknown,

    It’s great that you’ve started HIV meds.

    But please ask the doctor for your viral load results. Or you can ask them when they’re going to do the test.

    The good news is that HIV treatment (ART) works quickly as soon as you start it. Please see this page from ART in Pictures that shows how viral load is dramatically reduced in the first days and weeks of ART.

    It is safe to take your meds within one hour before or after your target time. So if your target time is 8:05 pm, it’s fine to take them at 8:40pm.

  6. Unknown

    Hi I got tested with hiv then start to take my meds I’m 5 months now.but the didn’t say anything about viral load so should I worry or what.second question is,sometime I take my meds 8:05pm sometimes 8:40pm is it safe?

  7. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Jackie,

    i-base advocates aren’t medical doctors, this is something that will need to be discussed with a doctor.

  8. Jackie

    Hi I’m HIV positive for 12 years now. Im on atroiza and purbac. My problem is my feet burn like I’m standing on hot coal and it’s hurts in the morning when I awake and if I’m on my feet most of the day.
    I’ve had cortazone injections in both feet and that did not help. Now I get told my vitamin D level is low and need to double my dose. Is there anything else that could be wrong.

  9. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Denis,

    Thanks for this comment. Yes, alcohol doesn’t interact with HIV meds.

    But how’s it going? What meds are you taking? And do you have access to your CD4 count and viral load results? Please let us know.

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