People living with HIV are more likely to die from a smoking-related illness than HIV
I gave a talk at the HIV Innovation Forum in Sydney today and would like to share some the important information discussed there.
Australians living with HIV/AIDS have around twice the smoking rate of the general population and are more likely to die from smoking-related causes than HIV-related causes.
Advances in medication for HIV has led to dramatic improvements in health and life expectancy. Most patients are well controlled with a combination of three 'anti-retroviral' medications and lead normal lives, although medication must be taken life-long.
Quitting smoking is a priority in HIV
People living with HIV who smoke have substantially poorer health than non-smokers. Among people with HIV, smoking greatly increases the risk for bacterial pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cardiovascular disease, decreased bone mineral density and many cancers.
People living with HIV who smoke are more likely to progress to an AIDs diagnosis and have a poorer response to anti-retroviral medication.
How to quit smoking
While most people living with HIV are interested in quitting, quit rates are generally lower than in the general population and relapse rates are high. A number of challenges make quitting harder, such as a high rate of drug and alcohol use, poorer mental health and poor compliance with treatment.
Conventional smoking treatment is generally recommended, consisting of counselling and support from a health professional and stop-smoking medication, such as nicotine replacement therapy, Champix or Zyban. More intensive treatment is generally advised.
Electronic cigarettes may help
People living with HIV who are unable to quit may benefit from e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes can be used as a short-term quitting aid or as a long-term safer alternative to smoking.
E-cigarettes provide a ‘smoking experience’ by delivering the nicotine smokers are addicted to and the familiar hand-to-mouth ritual. E-cigarettes do not produce smoke and most of the toxins and chemicals that cause most of the harm to health are absent or only present in tiny quantities. The scientific consensus is that e-cigarettes are dramatically safer than smoking, probably more than 95% less harmful.
Research study for smokers with HIV
The University of Queensland will shortly be conducting a trial on treatments to help smokers with HIV to quit smoking. If you are a smoker, you can register your interest here. Health practitioners can also register their interest and will be able to refer smokers with HIV to the study, which will take place in Brisbane, Sydney and possibly other locations in Australia.
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