For HIV Patients, Smoking Could Be Deadlier Than the Virus Itself

Smoking hand
Smoking hand
According to new research published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, smoking may actually decrease an HIV patient's lifespan more than the virus itself.

According to new research published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, smoking may actually decrease an HIV patient’s lifespan more than the virus itself. 

Krishna P. Reddy, MD, from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, explained that HIV patients who smoke are at an increased risk for heart disease, cancer, serious lung diseases, and other infections. Dr. Reddy and coauthors used a computer simulation of HIV disease and treatment to map the life expectancy of HIV patients according to their smoking status. 

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For males and females with HIV who had high HIV medication adherence, the study showed smoking reduced life expectancy by about twice as much than HIV. The data accounted for higher rates of HIV regimen non-adherence and lower retention in care in the U.S. unlike previous studies conducted in Europe. After adjusting for typical HIV regimen non-adherence and missed follow-up care, the findings indicated that males with HIV had similar loss of life expectancy with smoking as compared to HIV. 

Specifically, patients starting care for HIV at age 40 who continued to smoke lost 6.7 years (males) and 6.3 years (females) of life vs. patients with HIV who never smoked. If HIV patients quit smoking at age 40, they regained 5.7 years (males) and 4.6 years (females) of life. 

Dr. Reddy added, “A person with HIV who consistently takes HIV medicines but smokes is much more likely to die of a smoking-related disease than of HIV itself.”

Findings from the modeling study suggests that prioritizing smoking cessation can help patients significantly improve their lifespans and that it should be a major focus. More studies are needed to determine what methods work best to help patients with HIV quit smoking. Also, future cost-effectiveness analyses could help estimate the potentially significant benefits of investing in smoking cessation strategies for these patients, the study concluded. 

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