HIV and Alcohol related issues ought to be addressed immediately by the government
Recent research studies have shown that HIV prevalence in Kenya has stagnated at approximately 6%. While this reduction in HIV prevalence from 10%, there is little to celebrate about.
Increase in Alcohol Consumption
There have been recent reports of the increase in number of youth involved in alcohol and drug addiction. This problem cuts across from all economic and religious divides.
It is sad to note that those most affected by both HIV risk related behaviors which include abuse of alcohol and drugs are the youth. This population group is being looked at as the leaders of tomorrow.
However, I do not know if the youth realize that the future of our country rests in their hand. This is so because we have heard of the carefree lifestyle some of these youths indulge in, both those in higher institutions of learning and those who are unemployed.
HIV and Alcohol in Kenya
In Kenya, some alcohol comes in the form of commercial bottled brews, largely beers & spirits, and local brews like changaa, kumi kumi,kuona mbee, busaa, muratina etc.
All these forms of alcohol when taken in excess increase one’s vulnerability to HIV/STI infection
HIV and Alcohol: Relationship
HIV as it’s well known is a virus that is caused when one comes into contact with body fluids of an infected person. This can be either through sexual contact, blood transfusion of sharing sharp objects like needles.
Alcohol and drugs fall among some of the factors that increase one’s vulnerability to HIV infection. This is because this behavior lowers one’s guard against indulging in unsafe sexual relationships in addition to using sterilized objects.
To those already infected with HIV, it is not recommended for them to consume alcohol whilst on ARVs. Alcohol has been found to adversely affect adherence and disease progression in HIV infection (Cook et al 2001; Chander et al 2006)
HIV and Alcohol: Did you know that:
- Women who use alcohol and other drugs are less likely to practice safe sex with their partners
- Women with drug abuse problems are frequently discriminated upon leading to them underestimating/denying their risk of HIV infection and fearing to test for HIV
- Women drinkers are twice as likely as their male counterparts to be HIV+
- Men who engage in illicit drug use, experience instances on unprotected sex which also occurs in the context of multiple sexual partnerships.
- Even if fewer unprotected sex episodes occur, exposure opportunities to HIV are greater for those using illicit drugs
- Alcohol use may increase the odds of developing HIV associated uneven fat disposition (also referred to as lipostrophy) among individuals with alcohol problems.
- In men heavy alcohol use was associated with multiple partners and less condom use, whereas alcohol consumption in women it was associated with more sexual partners and transactional sex.
- Alcohol contributes to high HIV disease progression due to a reduction in the CD4 cell count amongst those HIV positive
- Both alcohol and ARVs contribute to accelerated liver disease amongst those HIV positive?
HIV and Alcohol: What is required?
- Efforts should be made to provide HIV counseling and testing services to person with substance abuse which expose them to HIV infection
- There is need to develop more alcohol risk reductions intervention components in our response to HIV
- The government ought to put in place strategies to enhance awareness levels on the associations between HIV and alcohol.
HIV and Alcohol: Do you form part of the population group that requires immediate help
To find out if you fall amongst individuals who have a heightened risk to HIV infection due to alcohol, try answering the questions below:
- Have you ever taken alcohol(Only those who answer YES to this question should carry on with the rest of the questions)
- Have you ever felt that you should Cut down on your drinking?
- Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
- Have you ever felt bad or Guilty about your drinking?
- Have you ever had a drink in the morning(Eye opener) to steady your nerves?
A count of 2 or more to the above questions,indicate an alcohol abuse problem .The above test is referred to as the CAGE assessment
If you are CAGED positive, it’s time for you to seek help. Both HIV and alcohol can kill.