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By Mark D., Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

My decent into alcohol abuse started during college with sorority parties, mixers and my reaching drinking age. I came from a very sheltered religious household where drinking was not allowed. Now I was away at college and on my own. My alcohol consumption continued to escalate through my Senior year.

When I had started my first real job after college in Advertising, we were encouraged to take our clients out for drinks. So my drinking continued to worsen. Many nights I would have blackouts and memory loss. I would wake up next to someone and not know how I got there. My drinking became so bad that I ended up losing my job and then my apartment. If it hadn't been for a great friend I would have become homeless.

Shortly after that in 1997, I came down with PCP and my doctor tested me for HIV and it came back positive. It was like my world had caved in. I couldn't be HIV+... I'm not gay... I dove further into the bottle and drowned myself in denial.

Luckily for me, friends and family members intervened and sent me to Rehab. If they hadn't I would definitely be dead by today. When I was drunk, I didn't care about my health or taking medications. I owe these people my life.

It's been a very hard road and many sessions of Alcoholics Anonymous. I will always be an alcoholic, but I have learned to deal with my addiction. I have been sober for 6 years and 3 months. It has not been easy, but I finally reached a place in life where caring about myself is important and I finally believe I deserve good health.

I hope that if you're reading this and recognize yourself that you will seek treatment for both your alcoholism and HIV if you're HIV+. I finally have my HIV under control; but that never would have happened if I hadn't got help.

Below are some findings on Alcohol Abuse and AIDS, I'm hoping that if you are HIV+ that you'll think about your health before your next drink or binge.

I was lucky to have people there who cared about me. Search for those people in your life that have your well being at heart. I send anyone with alcoholism my sympathy and know that you're not alone.

Note from the Project:

Alcohol Alcohol can increase blood levels of abacavir (Ziagen) and amprenavir (Agenerase). Chronic alcohol use can lower levels of many ARVs. May increase the risk of pancreatitis when used with didanosine (ddI, Videx),

Alcohol Abuse and AIDS

There are two reasons to investigate connections between alcohol, HIV infection, and AIDS: alcohol adversely affects the immune system, and alcohol influences high-risk sexual behavior.

Alcohol and the Immune System

Alcohol can impair normal immune responses that protect the body from disease. Chronic alcohol consumption has been shown to reduce the number of infection-fighting white blood cells in laboratory animals and in humans. Chronic alcohol ingestion or alcohol dependence can depress antibody production and other immune responses in animals and in humans. Alcohol can suppress activities of certain immune system cells, called macrophages, that help keep the lungs free from infection. In addition, alcoholics appear to be more susceptible to bacterial infections and cancer than are non-alcoholics. Studies in animals and in humans indicate that consuming alcohol during pregnancy can decrease immune resistance in the offspring.

Alcohol's generally immunosuppressive effects could mean that:

1) Drinking may increase vulnerability to HIV infection among people exposed to the virus, and that

2) among people who are already HIV infected, alcohol-induced immunosuppression might add to HIV-induced immunosuppression, and speed the onset or exacerbate the pathology of AIDS-related illness.

Researchers have learned that alcohol can impair white blood cell responses to HIV. A provocative study that warrants replication found that a single drinking episode depressed certain immune responses of white blood cells taken from healthy volunteers. In addition, white blood cells isolated after this drinking episode were more susceptible to HIV infection than were cells isolated from subjects who did not drink, hinting that even occasional alcohol consumption may increase the likelihood of infection upon exposure to HIV.

Alcohol and Sexual Behavior

Sexual practices considered to be high risk for acquiring HIV from an infected individual include vaginal or anal intercourse without a condom; other sexual practices that facilitate exchange of blood, semen, or other body secretions; and unprotected sexual activities with multiple partners. The frequency with which sexual partners engage in such practices also influences the risk for exposure to HIV.

Alcohol's relationship to high-risk sexual behavior may be explained in two ways. First, alcohol use may be a marker for a risk-taking temperament: those who drink alcohol may also engage in a variety of high-risk activities, including unsafe sexual practices, as a part of a "problem behavior syndrome". Second, alcohol may influence high-risk behaviors at specific sexual encounters by affecting judgment and disinhibiting socially learned restraints.