STUDY: Want To Live Longer With HIV? Quit Smoking

SmokerHave you made a New Year’s resolution to quit smoking in 2013? Research out of Denmark indicates that smoking cessation improves the life expectancy of HIV-positive people more than anything this side of anti-viral drugs.

It’s a bitter irony: With advances in treatment, people with HIV are living longer and healthier lives. But with HIV-positive people more likely to smoke than HIV-negative folks, too many are dying from heart disease, lung cancer and other cigarette-related illnesses.

According to the UK site AIDSmap, Danish researchers studied nearly 3,000 HIV-positive people and discovered nearly half (47%) sucked on coffin nails, compared to 18% who were former smokers and 35% who never smoked.

Accounting for other variables, the mortality rate for HIV-positive smokers was 18 per 1,000 patient years. “The loss of life-years associated with smoking was larger than that associated with HIV,” write the study’s authors in Clinical Infectious Disease. “HIV-infected smokers with long-term engagement in care lose more life-years to smoking than HIV.”

Here’s the math:

The risk of non-HIV-related death was five-fold higher for current smokers compared to HIV-infected patients who had never smoked. HIV-positive patients who were current smokers also had a fourfold increase in their risk of all-cause mortality.

The risk of death due to cardiovascular disease was approximately two times higher for HIV-positive current smokers compared to HIV-positive non-smokers. Current smokers were also three times more likely to die of cancer.

The authors calculated that 35-year-old non-smokers [with HIV]  had a life expectancy of 78 years. This compared to a life expectancy of 69 years for former smokers, and a life expectancy of just 63 years for current smokers.

So put down the smokes: You’re not kicking HIV’s ass just to fall prey to some butts.

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  • Taliaferro

    This is not news. Way back in 1984, when I became HIV+, we knew that certain behaviors dramatically shortened life and the quality of life. Smoking was one of the first. Excess drinking was another as were recreational drugs. Eating healthy food, seeing one’s doctors regularly, taking one’s meds, and reducing stress all help prolong life and the quality of life. 29 years later, I am still alive and enjoying life. I never smoked, drank only occasionally, did not do drugs, watched my diet and saw my doctors and took my meds. While I have some health issues, they don’t interfer with the quality of my life. In 2013, the only way one becomes HIV+ is by practicing unsafe sex or using IV drugs with dirty needles. I wish that back in 1984, when the disease was not yet identified, I had not had sex with that man who infected me and gave me hepatitis C. He’s a thought for all you young readers. Play safe, stop smoking and doing drugs, eat and drink in moderation, and live long healthy lives.

  • the other Greg

    @Taliaferro: That’s awesome! In my experience HIV+ people tend to be very recalcitrant about smoking, & I’m always puzzled why that is. For one thing it’s such a huge money-waster! (It’s not even fun like alcohol is supposed to be; it’s just an expensive pointless addiction.) But the attitude is generally: hey I’m doin’ the meds so don’t bother me about anything else and especially smoking.

  • Taliaferro

    Thanks for you comment, The Other Greg. I appreciate it.! T.

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