An update on alcohol use and risk of HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa: Meta-analysis and future research directions

Sarah E Woolf-King, Craig M Steinmaus, Arthur L Reingold, Judith A Hahn

Abstract


Woolf-King, S., Steinmaus, C. M., Reingold, A. L. & Hahn, J. A. (2013). An update on alcohol use and risk of HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa: Meta-analysis and future research directions. International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research, 2(1), 99-110.  doi: 10.7895/ijadr.v2i1.45 (http://dx.doi.org/10.7895/ijadr.v2i1.45)

Aims: Sub-Saharan Africa is disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, and growing evidence suggests that alcohol consumption is a co-occurring problem in the region.  We conducted a meta-analysis on studies of alcohol use and HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa in order to assess associations, evaluate heterogeneity in the literature, identify susceptible subgroups, and suggest avenues for future research.

Design: We performed a systematic review, including published review articles and electronic database searches, and identified 35 studies on alcohol use and HIV.

Setting and participants: All of the studies included in the meta-analysis occurred with adults in sub-Saharan Africa.

Measurements: Pooled odds ratio (OR) estimates were calculated using both the fixed inverse variance weighting method and the random effects method when evidence of heterogeneity was present.

Findings: The pooled OR estimate for all studies was 1.61 (95% CI: 1.44–1.80).  The association between alcohol use and prevalence or incident HIV infection was particularly large among samples who reported problem drinking (OR = 2.17, 95% CI: 1.64–2.87) and drinking in sexual contexts (OR = 1.79, 95% CI: 1.55–2.06).  Some evidence of publication bias was present; however, the OR remained statistically significant in small and large studies and with population-based and high-risk samples.

Conclusions: These results suggest that alcohol consumption, particularly at high levels and in sexual contexts, is associated with an increased risk of HIV infection.  An increased focus on methods that allow for more sensitive tests of the event-level association between alcohol consumption and risk of HIV infection may provide a better understanding of the causal mechanisms underlying this relationship.


Keywords


alcohol use, HIV, sub-Saharan Africa

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7895/ijadr.v2i1.45

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