Tobacco the 'silent killer' of HIV patients, say researchers

June 1, 2017, University of York
Dunhill Early Morning Pipe Tobacco, 1990's Murray. Credit: Sjschen/Wikipedia

Researchers at the University of York have shown that tobacco use is more common among HIV positive individuals than HIV negative individuals.

The study, published in The Lancet Global Health, aims to raise further awareness of the dangers associated with tobacco use among people living with HIV, particularly following recent research which showed that young people on HIV drugs have a near-normal life expectancy due to improved treatments for the disease.

Medical advances in HIV mean that HIV patients may only lose about five years of life due to HIV. However, if they smoke, they may lose as much as 12 years of life. This means that tobacco use is more than twice as likely to cause death in HIV patients as the HIV infection itself.

The York study, supported by the South African Medical Research Council, showed that in low and middle-income countries, particularly in the African region, HIV-positive men are 41%, and HIV-positive 36%, more likely to use tobacco, including snuff, chewing and tobacco, than their HIV-negative counterpart.

For only, HIV-positive men were 46% more likely and women 90% more likely to smoke than individuals who did not have HIV. However, the proportion of HIV positive men who smoke was much higher at 24.4%, than that of HIV positive women who smoke at 1.3%.

The researchers observed a marked difference in the way in which men and women use tobacco, with women having a higher tendency to use such as snuff or chewing tobacco over smoking.

Dr Noreen Mdege, from the University's Department of Health Sciences, said: "In high-income settings, the proportion of HIV-positive individuals who smoke has also been shown to be higher than among HIV-negative individuals of the same age and sex.

"Our findings confirm that this trend is the same for low and , where the burden of HIV and tobacco-related illnesses is greatest.

"We still don't know for certain the reasons why tobacco use should be significantly higher in HIV patients; more research is needed to understand why.

"A few factors could be considered as part of our ongoing work, such as the use of alcohol and other drugs together with tobacco, as well as mental health issues, such as depression, and coping with HIV-related symptoms or drug side-effects. It could also be due to the misconception that HIV is a death penalty, which of course, it is not."

The research suggests that the difference in tobacco use that is seen between men and women could be due to social or cultural 'norms'; in many low and middle income countries smoking is a less socially acceptable activity for women compared to men, and taking snuff or chewing tobacco is more acceptable than tobacco smoking among women.

Dr Mdege added: "Our main concern, however, is that interventions that are used commonly throughout the world for smoking cessation do not appear to make any difference to tobacco smoking among HIV positive individuals. This suggests that we need to tailor smoking cessation interventions to the unique needs of this population in order to tackle this issue.

"The next stage of the study will focus on understanding the differences in the way tobacco is used among HIV patients when compared to the general population, as well as factors that may influence tobacco use within HIV patients. This way, we will be able to develop tailored interventions that are effective on tackling the root causes of use as well as how it is used among HIV-positive individuals."

Explore further: Opinion: Cannabis isn't the health problem—it's the tobacco you mix with it

More information: Noreen D Mdege et al, Tobacco use among people living with HIV: analysis of data from Demographic and Health Surveys from 28 low-income and middle-income countries, The Lancet Global Health (2017). DOI: 10.1016/S2214-109X(17)30170-5

Related Stories

Opinion: Cannabis isn't the health problem—it's the tobacco you mix with it

May 24, 2017
Europe may seem like an increasingly divided continent, but there is one thing that unites its people: an obsession with using tobacco to smoke cannabis. Up to 90% of Europeans combine tobacco with cannabis, according to ...

Smoke-free policies help decrease smoking rates for LGBT population

May 1, 2017
Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death and disability in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking among lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) ...

New study examines use of multiple tobacco products in college students

May 27, 2016
A new study by University of Kentucky researchers found that roughly 15 percent of college students who had ever used tobacco currently use more than one tobacco product. Polytobacco use (using more than one tobacco product) ...

Study paints mixed picture of global smoking trends

March 13, 2015
Smoker numbers are declining in many parts of the world, but upward trends in African and Mediterranean countries mean the global total will not change much over the next 10 years, researchers said Friday.

Smoking down, number of lives saved up as more countries embrace tobacco control measures

December 12, 2016
Between 2008 and 2014, more than 53 million people in 88 countries stopped smoking due to tobacco control measures, which means that more than 22 million smoking-related deaths have been averted, say researchers at the Georgetown ...

No significant change seen in overall smokeless tobacco use among US youths

May 14, 2013
Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. Declines in smoking among youths were observed from the late 1990s. "However, limited information exists on trends in smokeless ...

Recommended for you

Early studies of male birth-control pill show promise

March 23, 2018
Well, well, well. The ball has been knocked roundly into your court, gentlemen.

Whether sustained or sporadic, exercise offers same reductions in death risk

March 22, 2018
For decades, Americans have been inundated with a confusing barrage of messages about how best to counteract the health risks of sedentary lifestyles: walk 10,000 steps a day; do a seven-minute workout from a phone app; flip ...

Tai chi as good as or better than aerobic exercise for managing chronic pain

March 21, 2018
The ancient martial art of tai chi has similar or greater benefits than aerobic exercise for people with the chronic pain condition fibromyalgia, finds a trial published by The BMJ today.

Study: Poor health is a less common cause of bankruptcy than commonly thought, but it brings other economic woes

March 21, 2018
A team of researchers led by an MIT economist has found that medical expenses account for roughly 4 percent of bankruptcy filings among nonelderly adults in the U.S.

Study finds bad sleep habits start early in school-age children

March 21, 2018
Bad sleep habits in children begin earlier than many experts assume. That's the takeaway from a new study led by McGill University researchers. The findings suggest that official sleep guidelines for young school children ...

Medical expansion has improved health—with one exception

March 21, 2018
While Americans debate the rising cost of health care, a new study of 30 countries over 27 years found that medical expansion has improved overall health - with one major exception.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jun 03, 2017
NATIONAL HIV TESTING DAY June 27, 2016. HIV testing is the only way to know for sure if someone has HIV. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in eight people in the United States infected with HIV don't know it. Gay and bisexual men are more severely affected by HIV than any other group in the United States.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.