To investigate the association between alcohol use and adherence to highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART) among human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected patients in sub-Saharan Africa. Cross-sectional survey conducted in eight adult HIV treatment centres from Benin, Côte d'Ivoire and Mali. Participants and measurements During a 4-week period, health workers administered the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test to HAART-treated patients and assessed treatment adherence using the AIDS Clinical Trials Group follow-up questionnaire. A total of 2920 patients were enrolled with a median age of 38 years [interquartile range (IQR) 32-45 years] and a median duration on HAART of 3 years (IQR 1-4 years). Overall, 91.8% of patients were identified as adherent to HAART. Non-adherence was associated with current drinking [odds ratio (OR) 1.4; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.1-2.0], hazardous drinking (OR 4.7; 95% CI 2.6-8.6) and was associated inversely with a history of counselling on adherence (OR 0.7; 95% CI 0.5-0.9). Alcohol consumption and hazardous drinking is associated with non-adherence to HAART among HIV-infected patients from West Africa. Adult HIV care programmes should integrate programmes to reduce hazardous and harmful drinking.