HIV probably will not kill you, but smoking will


Compared to the general population, an abnormally high rate of Americans living with HIV are smokers: according to the count of a 2009 study, 50 to 70 percent of HIV positive people smoke; another of 2016 estimated that it is at least more than 40 percent. "That's more than double the smoking rate in the general population," said Dr. Krishna P. Reddy, a Boston-based physician and researcher who specializes in HIV comorbidities.

Nowadays, medical advances mean that HIV-positive people can have almost normal life expectancy rates, but not if you smoke. Dr. Reddy was the principal investigator in a study published this November in JAMA Internal Medicine, that examines mortality rates from lung cancer for smokers living with HIV. Their results were shocking: HIV positive smokers are six to 13 times more likely to die of lung cancer than traditional causes related to AIDS.

I have HIV, and every time I visit my doctor for routine monitoring, he says the same thing: "HIV is not going to kill you, but smoking will do it." And it's true: no matter how diligently HIV patients adhere to their medication regimen, if they smoke, they can not say that they are taking care of themselves. "For those taking anti-HIV drugs, smoking is a much greater threat to the health than HIV, "said Dr. Reddy, who emphasized that lung cancer is one of the leading causes of death rather than complications due to the virus. people with HIV.

According to study of JAMA HIV-positive men and women who smoked daily faced high death rates from lung cancer, 23 percent men and 20.9 percent women. But if they stop smoking, those risks decreased drastically, falling to 6.1 percent and 5.2 percent. Quitting now could add years, if not decades, to your life.

"This is a great reminder of the effectiveness of current treatments against HIV to prevent the progression of the disease," said Richard Wolitski, director of the Office for HIV / AIDS in the Department of Health and Human Services. "During the first half of the epidemic, it was a harsh reality that we did not see the effects of smoking on people living with HIV because they got sick and died so quickly from AIDS." People living with HIV today can live longer lives, Wolitski admits, "but smoking is a major and critical threat to the health of those people, including those who take HIV medications every day as prescribed. saving the lives of people with HIV, we also have to address smoking and other threats to health. "

Meet the blogger who narrates his life with HIV:

After smoking for a decade, about three months ago I decided to quit smoking. The warning signs of the effects of smoking began to manifest as alarming cramps near my heart or an accelerated heartbeat, and they were happening more frequently. When I finally decided to quit smoking, I felt that the onset of depression settled. Not being able to smoke cigarettes during breaks from work and in social environments felt literally depressing, but it did not last long. Obviously you do not need cigarettes to cope with stress or socialize, despite the excessive stress experienced by people living with HIV.

After the first two predictably difficult days of quitting, I began to forget how badly I thought I needed cigarettes. The cravings that once occurred every four hours began to occur every four days. That said, the strength of nicotine addiction should not be underestimated: quitting smoking is incredibly difficult. But it's something I'm committed to. Despite a brief weight gain after quitting and several adjustments that I had to make in my lifestyle, in general, quitting has been worth it.

When I spent the first week, I rarely thought of a cigarette. And knowing how much money I'm saving, the health benefits I'm accumulating and the duration I'm adding to my lifespan help me stay motivated. The sweet sense of accomplishment I have seen from quitting the last three months has made me feel that I can overcome any obstacle. There is no need to feel embarrbaded or guilty about smoking, just leave it and do it for yourself. Its useful life depends on it.

Follow Benjamin Adams on Twitter .

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