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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
CALIFORNIA: Alcohol Often Leads to Risky Behavior, Officials Say
David Duran
February 27, 2012
Bay Area Reporter (San Francisco) (02.23.12) - Monday,

The San Francisco AIDS Foundation's Feb. 16 "HIVision" community forum focused on alcohol use by people with HIV. In the gay community, too many men are under the influence of alcohol or another substance when having sex, panelists said. Under the influence, people tend to engage in sex more often and are less likely to use condoms or use them correctly, attendees of the SFAF forum at the LGBT Community Center heard.

"[Alcohol] has a big impact on many organs of the body if used to excess," said Dr. Susan Buchbinder, director of research at the city Department of Public Health's HIV prevention section. "It interacts with medications and how one metabolizes those medications." A larger issue could be if those who drink too much are failing to take their medication, she said.

Doctors report less trouble getting hard-core drug users' viral loads down to undetectable levels than for those who abuse alcohol. Patients with severe alcohol addiction are some of the hardest cases in which to get viral loads under control, panelists noted.

"In a routine HIV appointment with a provider, there just is no time to ask about drinking or the consequences involved," said E. Maxwell Davis, an assistant professor at California State University-East Bay and panel moderator. "About 13 percent of people living with HIV would be qualified as alcohol dependent," said Davis.

Over the next year and a half, the Stop AIDS Project � part of SFAF � will conduct the "Pacing Alcohol Consumption Experiment" at three Castro bars and one in South of Market. Participants at these establishments are asked to take a five- minute exit survey, a Breathalyzer test and a follow-up online survey to help gauge gay men's patterns of alcohol use and related behaviors.