How Drinking Affects Your HIV Risk

Alcoholic drinks are readily available around the holidays, but it is wise to proceed with caution. Whether you are HIV+ or HIV-, excess alcohol intake can lower your inhibitions and make it more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior.

Get the facts on alcohol and HIV this holiday season with UNM Truman Health Services.

How Alcohol Works

Alcohol is a depressant that affects your central nervous system. It relaxes the body, but can cloud thinking and judgment.

Every human body can only process one standard drink per hour. That means if you drink a great deal of alcohol in a short amount of time, you will become more intoxicated than you will drinking one drink per hour for multiple hours.

While alcohol is legal, it can significantly impact coordination, reactions, and judgments.

Drinking and Avoiding HIV

Risky sex is more likely to happen if your thinking is impaired. This means that a condom may not be used correctly or at all. Because unprotected sex is the most popular way individuals get HIV in the United States, it is important to be aware of this risk while drinking.

To protect yourself, try the following tips:

  • Always carry latex condoms
  • Take your time in correctly putting on the condom
  • Ask your sexual partner about their HIV status
  • Ask if your sexual partner has recently had unprotected sex
  • Ensure that the sex is consensual

To avoid becoming too intoxicated, try to alternate between alcoholic drinks and nonalcoholic drinks. Drinking a large glass of water between alcoholic drinks will help you pace yourself and hydrate your body. Also, try not to drink on an empty stomach.

Drinking and Living with HIV

It is a misconception that alcohol interacts with HIV medication. But, it may impact medication adherence. Statistically, HIV-positive drinkers are more likely to miss doses, forget to fill prescriptions, and miss doctor’s appointments. This can lead to a progression of HIV that is easily preventable.

Drinking alcohol while living with HIV also increases the risk of depression. HIV-positive individuals are already at a higher risk for behavioral health problems and should drink alcohol cautiously.

If You Have Had Unprotected Sex, Get Tested

If a little holiday fun leads to unprotected sex, it is essential to get tested for HIV. UNM Truman Health Services offers FREE rapid HIV testing that is fast and confidential. Contact us today to set up your appointment.