Smokers with HIV likely to die from smoking

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Cigarettes are bad for everyone’s health, but for people with HIV even more so.
Credit: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP / Getty Images

Smoking may shorten a HIV patient’s lifespan by about twice as much as the disease, a modelling study shows.

US researchers led by Krishna Reddy from Harvard Medical School used a simulation of HIV disease and treatment to forecast life expectancy of people living with HIV. They found men and women with HIV who take medication but smoke are more likely to die from conditions caused by smoking.

The modelling was published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

Rates of smoking among people living with HIV are twice that of the general population in the US – 40% compared to around 15%.

But tobacco smoke is particularly nasty for those patients: it puts them at high risk for heart disease, cancer, serious lung diseases and other infections.

“It is well-known that smoking is bad for health, but we demonstrate in this study just how bad it is,” Reddy says.

“We actually quantify the risk, and I think providing those numbers to patients can help put their own risks from smoking in perspective.”

For instance, men and women entering care for HIV at age 40 but who kept smoking lost 6.7 and 6.3 years of life expectancy respectively, compared to people with HIV who never smoked.

But if smokers quit at age 40, they regained 5.7 and 4.6 years of life expectancy respectively.

“We show that even people who have been smoking till age 60 but quit at age 60 have a substantial increase in their life expectancy compared to those who continue to smoke,” Reddy says.

“So it’s never too late to quit.”

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