Objectives: To examine the relationship between patterns of alcohol use and HIV infection and to assess the association between problem drinking and the prevalence of risk factors for HIV among a sample of high-risk African women.
Methods: Baseline data were collected between 2002 and 2003 during enrollment of 1050 women in a prospective cohort study designed to assess risk factors for HIV. Information about demographic and employment characteristics, sexual behaviors, and drinking patterns were obtained by interviews. The CAGE questionnaire was used to assess problem drinking. The association between measures of alcohol use and HIV/STDs and sexual behaviors were summarized using odds ratios, adjusted odds ratios (AOR), and 95% confidence intervals (CI).
Results: HIV prevalence was 19.0% (95% CI, 16.6%–21.4%). Overall 73.9% of the women drank alcohol whereas 34.6% were classified as problem drinkers. After adjusting for demographic and employment variables, drinkers were at increased risk to be HIV+ when compared with nondrinkers (AOR, 2.10; 95% CI, 1.29–3.42). Greater involvement with alcohol, as indicated by recency, frequency and quantity consumed, was associated with increased risk. Problem drinkers were at greater risk to be HIV+ than nonproblem drinkers (AOR, 1.79; 95% CI, 1.06–3.04 vs. AOR, 2.43; 95% CI, 1.45–4.06). Problem drinkers were also more likely to have engaged in several types of high-risk sexual behaviors and to have other STD infections including HSV-2.
Conclusion: Programs aiming at limiting alcohol use or promoting abstinence from alcohol might help to reduce high-risk behaviors and lower the burden of HIV/STDs in this population.