The liver is one of the most important and largest organs in your body. It has been described as the body’s ‘chemical processing plant’. It plays a key role in food metabolism and digestion, in producing immune system proteins and importantly for people with HIV, in the breaking down of prescription and other drugs, and alcohol.
Older age (even without HIV) is associated with decreased liver function.
A healthy liver is important to process medicines effectively, so if your liver has been damaged by drinking too much alcohol, you are more likely to experience side effects from HIV medications (especially if you have hepatitis).
The blood fat increases caused by some HIV medications can also be made worse by heavy drinking.
There are a number of reasons why people with HIV may be more likely to experience liver damage.
- Higher use of both prescription and over-the-counter medications that can cause liver damage (especially paracetamol)
- Higher incidence of hepatitis B and C
- Higher levels of alcohol and other drug use
- Pain in upper right abdomen or generalised abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Clay colored stool (faeces)
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and white part of the eyes)
Things you can do to keep your liver healthy:
- Regular liver function checks
- Get appropriate vaccinations or treatment for hepatitis A, B & C
- Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegies, minimal high fat food
- Avoid excess alcohol
- Avoid taking more than 4 grams of paracetamol in any 24 hour period
- Safe sex and safe injecting practices will help you avoid getting infected with hepatitis B and C
- If you have liver disease, avoid high doses of vitamin A and iron.
- Your Body Blueprint for HIV and healthy living
- AFAO Factsheet: Living with HIV and Hepatitis C
- The New Deal: Gay men, Sex, and Hepatitis C
This page was published on 19 September, 2011
This page was reviewed on 23 December 2015
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