Q and A

Question

Can I drink alcohol with ARVs?

I have started ART a month ago. Before that I used to drink alcohol quite often.

Since I started ART, I try to not drink. But, I still want to.

Can I drink alcohol?

Answer

In general, one or two drink is likely to be fine, if this is something you enjoy. There are no interactions between alcohol and ARVs.

More heavy drinking however can lead to missing doses of your ARVs. This can cause your treatment to fail. This means that if you have a drink, make sure you find a way to not miss any of your meds. Moderation is important.

Two other concerns are important for people living with HIV:

  1. Alcohol can also make efavirenz side effects worse, in particular feeling dizzy, so be careful about this.
  2. Alcohol can make hepatitis or other liver complications progress more quickly. Alcohol is not recommended if you have hepatitis. See this information from the guide to HIV and hepatitis C:
    http://i-base.info/guides/hepc/alcohol

The NHS website has a lot of information about alcohol. This is important whether you are HIV positive or HIV negative. See:
http://www.nhs.uk/LiveWell/Alcohol/Pages/Alcoholhome.aspx, and
http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/alcohol/Pages/Effectsofalcohol.aspx

In the UK, the NHS recommendations for alcohol are:

  • Men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day. This is only 1-2 pints of lager – ie one strong drink.
    http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/alcohol/Pages/alcohol-units.aspx
  • Women should not regularly drink more than 2-3 units a day
  • If you’ve had a heavy drinking session, avoid alcohol for 48 hours.

“Regularly” means drinking this amount every day or most days of the week.

…………

This question from 2008 was updated in September 2014.

99 comments

  1. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Ntobeko,

    Its up to an individual if they wish to drink. Drinking when positive will not shorten a persons life. However, alcohol, like anything else should be done in moderation.

  2. Ntobeko

    If u know u taking arvs stop drinking alcohol coz u putting yr life in danger stop then you will live longer

  3. Simon Collins

    Hi Edward, the timing doesn’t usually relate to side effects from small differences in time. However, if your meds contain efavirenz, this needs to be taken before going to sleep. If it is taken during the day, the side effects are worse. Similarly, dolutegravir is better to take in the morning, as at night it can stop you sleeping. When meds are you taking?

  4. Edward

    Can takinig ARVs on different interval of time cause any side effect to a HIV positive patient?

  5. Simon Collins

    Hi William, it is okay for HIV positive people on meds to drink alcohol. Moderation is always best. The risks are the same as for HIV negative people. In the UK, guidelines recommended only 14 units a week for both men and women:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-alcohol-guidelines-show-increased-risk-of-cancer

    “Men should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol each week, the same level as for women. This equals 6 pints of average strength beer a week, which would mean a low risk of illnesses such as liver disease or cancer. The previous guidelines were 21 units for men and 14 units for women per week.

    An additional recommendation is not to ‘save up’ the 14 units for 1 or 2 days, but to spread them over 3 or more days. People who have 1 or 2 heavy drinking sessions each week increase the risk of death from long term illnesses, accidents and injuries. A good way to reduce alcohol intake is to have several alcohol free days a week.”

  6. William

    Hi doctor if I am on ARV and I do not forget to take my medication and I drink alcohol only beer and wine what effect for my health?

  7. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Doreen,

    Its OK to take meds a few hours either side of a normal time. It won’t cause any problems. What’s important is that your husband doesn’t for get to take his meds due to drinking.

  8. Doreen

    My husband he is hiv positive so every weekend he drink alcohol and he did not drink the tablets on time cause he drink tablets on eight o’clock if is weekend maybe past 10 to 11 oclock

  9. Lisa Thorley

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