Alcohol and Mortality: Combining Self-Reported (AUDIT-C) and Biomarker Detected (PEth) Alcohol Measures among HIV Infected and Uninfected

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Background: Unhealthy alcohol use may be particularly detrimental among individuals living with HIV and/or hepatitis C virus (HCV), and is often under-reported. Direct biomarkers of alcohol exposure may facilitate improved detection of alcohol use. Methods: We evaluated the association of alcohol exposure determined by both self-report [Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test-Consumption (AUDIT-C)] and a direct biomarker [phosphatidylethanol (PEth)], with mortality among HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected in the Veterans Aging Cohort Study-Biomarker Cohort. We considered PEth,8 ng/mL to represent no alcohol use. Alcohol exposure by AUDIT-C scores [0, 1-3/1-2 (men/women), 4-7/3-7 (men/women), 8-12] and PEth (,8, $8) was combined into categories to model the relationship of alcohol with mortality. Participants were followed from blood collection date for 5 years or until death within 5 years. Results: The sample included 2344 (1513 HIV+; 831 uninfected) individuals, 95% men. During a median follow-up of 5 years, 13% died. Overall, 36% were infected with HCV (40% HIV+/HCV+, 27% HIV2/HCV+). Overall, 43% (1015/2344) had AUDIT-C = 0 (abstinence). Of these, 15% (149/1015) had PEth $8 suggesting recent alcohol exposure. Among those with AUDIT-C = 0, HCV+ individuals were more likely to have PEth $8. After controlling for age, sex, race, HIV, HCV, and HIV viral suppression, those with AUDIT-C = 0 but PEth $8 had the highest risk of mortality (adjusted hazard ratio 2.15, 95% confidence interval: 1.40 to 3.29). Conclusions: PEth in addition to self-report may improve detection of alcohol use in clinical settings, particularly among those at increased risk of harm from alcohol use. Individuals infected with HCV were more likely to under-report alcohol use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-143
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)


  • Alcohol
  • HCV
  • HIV
  • Mortality
  • Phosphatidylethanol


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