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HIV Patients At Much Higher Risk From Smoking

Update Date: Dec 19, 2012 06:19 AM EST

A new Danish study suggests that among HIV patients who are receiving well-organized care with free access to antiretroviral therapy, patients who smoke are at an earlier risk of death from smoking-related health issues than to HIV.

The findings of the study emphasize the importance of kicking the butt among HIV-infected patients in long-term.

For the study, researcher Marie Helleberg, M.D., of Copenhagen University Hospital and colleagues investigated the risk of death and life expectancy among HIV-infected patients. They estimated the number of life years smoking cost to 3,000 HIV-infected patients treated in Denmark from the years 1995 to 2010.

Also, a comparison of deaths caused by smoking between HIV patients and the country's background population was done by the scientists.

Where HIV care is integrated and antiretroviral therapy is available at no cost, "more than 60 percent of deaths among HIV patients are associated with smoking," rather than HIV, Dr. Helleberg said, according to Medical Xpress.

The findings of their study revealed that smoking significantly affected the life expectancy of HIV patients, with figures suggesting that a 35-year-old HIV patient who currently smokes had a life expectancy of 62.6 years, compared to 78.4 years for a nonsmoker infected with HIV.

This means that the number of years lost to smoking was twice the number of years lost to HIV infection alone among infected patients. Also, researchers found that the death risk of smokers among HIV-infected patients was three times higher than that of individuals not infected with HIV.

"Our findings emphasize the importance of counseling HIV patients on smoking cessation as smoking may impact their life expectancy considerably more than the HIV infection itself," the study authors wrote, according to the report.

Also, smokers who quit, do see a quick drop of risk of cardiovascular disease, but still remain at an increased risk of cancer for many years after quitting.

Dr. Helleberg and her team emphasize on the need of well-organized HIV care. Continuing to smoke or picking up the habit could cost much more to HIV patients than others.

The study was published in Clinical Infectious Diseases and is available online.

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