Smoking is Even Worse For HIV-Positive People

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Smoking is bad. But it can be worse, especially if you’re HIV-positive — and the CDC wants you to know it.

To do so, it’s enlisted Brian, a gay HIV-positive man who got a stroke as a result of his smoking. He’s the centerpiece of the CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers campaign, the part of it dealing with people who are HIV-positive. Here’s the video he stars in to raise awareness of the complications.

In the video Brian talks about his experience rebounding from advanced HIV infection, how despite successfully controlling his HIV he continued to be a smoker, and how he went on to develop a stroke that required surgery on an artery in his neck.

“It took a stroke for me to actually stop smoking,” Brian said. “Smoking is something that you do have control over. You can stop. And it’s worth your life to stop smoking.”

As part of the campaign, Dr. John T. Brooks, a medical epidemiologist in the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention explains how we now understand HIV and smoking both exacerbate each other:

“Even when your HIV is well managed, there’s still a level of chronic inflammation. This HIV-related inflammation is a risk for many of the same health problems that smoking causes. When a person has HIV and smokes, emerging data suggest there is a combined negative effect,” Brooks said in a release. “If a person’s HIV is under control, the risk of smoking remains and becomes a greater and often leading preventable risk for illness and death.”

Here an interesting statistic: In 2009, an estimated 42 percent of HIV-positive individuals smoked, compared with 20 percent of the general population. Dr. Tim McAfee, the head of CDC’s Office of Smoking and Health, said “We’re especially concerned with how people with HIV overlap with the LGBT communities, another population we know smokes at much higher rates than the general public.”

Dr. Scout, the Director of CenterLink’s Network for LGBT Health Equity, is glad to see the CDC take this approach with anti-smoking awareness.

“Three years ago CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers Campaign created one little rainbow ad. Last year they created a print ad featuring two lesbians. This year we see them not only creating this new ad featuring an HIV+ gay man, but also buying placement for it in dozens of LGBT specific regional and national media outlets,” Scout said.

Here’s another interesting statistic from the CDC: HIV-positive smokers are more likely to develop HIV-related infections than a nonsmoker with HIV, including thrush and Pneumocystis pneumonia, a dangerous lung infection.

Dr. Brooks also noted there appears to be no major drug interactions between medications for HIV and smoking cessation that would limit using cessation medications in most HIV-infected smokers.

“These new Tips ads speak to vitally important information that HIV-positive tobacco smokers need to hear,” said Dr. Scout, “that once your HIV is under control, the next greatest threat to your health has a cure.”


Greg Kabel

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