Michigan Targets HIV-Positive Smokers

SEPTEMBER 16, 2016
Gale Scott
People living with HIV have a high rate of tobacco use, a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Study found. But using trained tobacco treatment specialists they begun a concerted effort to get HIV clients in state AIDS organizations to begin smoking cessation programs.

The department believes theirs is the first statewide smoking cessation program to target people living with HIV.

Reporting at the United States Conference on AIDS today in a poster presented at the meeting, researchers said they believe they can get many of these individuals to kick their habit--particularly since 59% of those surveyed said they were ready to try.

There is much work to be done, the researchers noted.

“The health consequences of cigarette smoking are not borne equally among all populations,” the team noted. “The prevalence of current tobacco use among people living with HIV nationally is estimated at between 42% and 70%, markedly higher than that of the US general population, 19%.”

Two years into their initiative, health department staff at the state’s 14 AIDS Service Organizations have assessed smoking status of nearly 1,500 people living with HIV and found 50% of  them smoked. (They also surveyed their own staff and found that smoking was prevalent in 17% of the workers, same as the national rate.)

Slightly more than half of the HIV smokers said they have a partner or household member who smokes which can be “a strong trigger for not quitting smoking.”

They also found LGBT clients were more likely than heterosexual clients to be smokers and that the prevalence of smoking in LGBT people regardless of HIV status is 33%.

The program is ongoing, and the health department expects to begin trying it in Detroit, said Lynne Stauff, a public health consultant for the department’s tobacco section in Lansing, MI. Detroit has higher rates of HIV and of cigarette smoking than the state as a whole.

Stauff said patients with HIV were being successfully treated for their infection only to die of smoking-related causes.

“Ironically, people with HIV are dying from tobacco-related diseases 12 years sooner than from HIV stage-3,” the health department team concluded.

One of their goals is to “create urgency in the people living with HIV community that smoking cigarettes is a problem” particularly since many smokers surveyed reported being unconcerned about the health consequences of being both a smoker and HIV infected.
 
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