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.

302 comments

  1. Bryan

    I found out I was hiv positive a week ago today, started ARV immediately, i was shocked and cried at first, but when I went for the test my mum was there with me, she took it well and being an only son, she gave me hope and courage too, I want to be fine and live long for her, it’s not been an easy ride, but God is doing it for me.

  2. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Morgan,

    Drinking alcohol has no impact on the effectiveness of ARVs. It’s common to get colds. Do you know what your CD4 count and viral load are?

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