Alcohol, AIDS and immunity
British Medical Bulletin, 1994, 50(1): 115-123.
Authors: TJ McManus, P Weatherburn
In order to understand the potential impact of alcohol consumption on the course of the HIV/ AIDS pandemic we examine at least three very different debates. In an attempt to summarise these debates we assess the impact of alcohol consumption on numerous aspects of HIV infection, including the relationship between alcohol use and likelihood of engagement in 'unsafe' sexual behaviour; the impact of alcohol on immune function and its importance as a co-factor for AIDS-related illness. We argue that, contrary to popular belief, the consumption of alcohol does not appear to make individuals more likely to engage in unsafe sex. Furthermore, while alcohol has clearly been proven to affect immune function in vivo and in vitro there is no clear evidence that it plays any part in individuals' susceptibility to HIV infection or has any effect on disease progression among persons with HIV infection. Clearly some of this research is in its infancy and such conclusions should be treated with caution.