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​AS we move into the festive season, we are all prepared to kick back and have a good time. Many of these year-end celebrations involve alcohol, which if abused can have serious health repercussions – both for you and those around you.

Alcohol abuse leads to risky behaviours such as unprotected sex and often leads to aggression and violence.

A 2016 Health Systems Trust study conducted in in Nyanga and Khayelitsha found that violence caused up to 20% of injuries. Young men were most often the victims of these acts of violence and when alcohol was involved, the rate of violent injuries was over four times higher than usual.

Alcohol also played a significant part in road traffic-related injuries, such as drunken driving or intoxicated pedestrians being injured. When alcohol was involved, the risk of a transport-related injury was doubled. Not only does abuse of alcohol often lead to injury, but it can also have a negative impact on your health in other ways as it can lead to risk-taking such as sex with strangers, unprotected sex and even sexual assault.

People who are HIV-positive should take particular care of their health and be aware of how alcohol affects this.  Some people who use alcohol forget to take their HIV medication and this can lead to antiretroviral treatment being less effective and increasing the chances of infecting a sexual partner. People who have been drinking can also make themselves ill by taking their ARVs without eating first.

How should you protect yourself in the festive season?

- Do not drink to excess or to the point where you are out of control and using poor judgment.

- Always use a condom if you do choose to have sex.

- Do not drink and drive. Apart from the legal consequences, you could be responsible for the deaths of your loved ones and passengers, as well as other road-users.

- Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Don’t take ARVs or TB medications on an empty stomach either.

If you or someone close to you has a problem with alcohol or drugs, the following resources are available:

SA National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

Sanca – Johannesburg: 08611 REHAB (73422) or (011) 673 0400 or

Sanca – Western Cape: (021) 945 4080/1 or

Department of Social Development’s Substance Abuse Line 

National toll-free helpline: 0800 12 13 14 or SMS 32312