Clinicians looking to assess alcohol use among people with HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) who use drugs may want to look to an objective measure rather than just self-reports for a more complete picture of this population’s drinking habits, Infectious Disease Advisor reports.

Risha Irvin, MD, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and colleagues from the randomized controlled Chronic Hepatitis C Management to Improve Outcomes (CHAMPS) trial enrolled 144 people with HIV and HCV coinfection who use drugs. They randomly assigned the participants to one of three treatment groups to assess the impact of a program of cash incentives and peer mentors on the uptake of direct-acting antiviral (DAA) treatment and hep C cure rates.

To assess the participants’ use of alcohol, the study authors relied on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), which is based on self-reports, as well as an objective measure of recent alcohol use, a blood test for the alcohol biomarker phosphatidylethanol (PEth).

According to the AUDIT, 28% of the participants drank at hazardous levels, while according to the PEth test, 35% of the participants drank heavily.

Among the 135 people for whom there were PEth data, the median age was 55 years old, 59% were male, 92% were Black, 91% reported a history of drug use and 97% were receiving antiretroviral treatment for HIV.

Of the 47 people who had a PEth score of at least 50 nanograms per milliliter, indicating heavy drinking, 49% reported on the AUDIT that they drank minimal or no alcohol.

A total of 103 of the 135 participants included in the analysis began DAA treatment for HCV; of these, 92% achieved a sustained virologic response 12 weeks after completing therapy, considered a cure.

There was no significant association between having a PEth score indicating heavy drinking and not starting DAA treatment or not being cured.

To read the Infectious Disease Advisor article, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.