HIV Disease Severity Is Sensitive to Temporal Changes in Alcohol Use: A National Study of VA Patients With HIV

Emily C. Williams, Kathleen A. McGinnis, Janet P. Tate, Theresa E. Matson, Anna D. Rubinsky, Jennifer F. Bobb, Gwen T. Lapham, E. Jennifer Edelman, Sheryl L Catz, Derek D. Satre, Kendall J. Bryant, Brandon D.L. Marshall, Kevin L. Kraemer, Kara M. Bensley, Julie E. Richards, Melissa Skanderson, Amy C. Justice, David A. Fiellin, Katharine A. Bradley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Alcohol use influences HIV disease severity through multiple mechanisms. Whether HIV disease severity is sensitive to changes in alcohol use among people with HIV (PWH) is understudied. SETTING: National Veterans Health Administration. METHODS: Pairs of AUDIT-C screens within 9-15 months (February 1, 2008-September 30, 2014) were identified among PWH from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS). Initial and follow-up VACS Index 2.0 pairs obtained 0-270 days after initial and follow-up AUDIT-Cs, respectively, determined change in VACS Index 2.0, a composite HIV severity measure. Change in VACS Index 2.0 was regressed on AUDIT-C change scores (-12 to +12) adjusted for demographics, initial VACS Index 2.0, and days between VACS Index measures. RESULTS: Among 23,297 PWH (76,202 observations), most had no (51%) or low-level (38%) alcohol use initially. Most (54%) had no subsequent change; 21% increased and 24% decreased drinking. Initial VACS Index 2.0 scores ranged from 0 to 134, change scores ranged from -65 to +73, with average improvement of 0.76 points (SD 9.48). AUDIT-C change was associated with VACS Index 2.0 change (P < 0.001). Among those with stable alcohol use (AUDIT-C change ≤ │1│ point), VACS Index 2.0 improvements ranged 0.36-0.60 points. For those with maximum AUDIT-C increase (change from 0 to 12), VACS Index 2.0 worsened 3.74 points (95% CI: -4.71 to -2.78); for those with maximum AUDIT-C decrease (change from 12 to 0), VACS Index 2.0 changed minimally [-0.60 (95% CI: -1.43 to 0.23)]. CONCLUSIONS: In this national sample, improvement in HIV severity was generally greatest among those with stable alcohol use (primarily those with no use).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)448-455
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of acquired immune deficiency syndromes (1999)
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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