There are many reasons to quit smoking-for your health, your finances, your family, but for people living with HIV, smoking takes years off their lives.
Stop smoking; live longer and healthier!
A study conducted in Denmark found that a 35 year old with HIV who smokes had a life expectancy of 63 years compared to 78 years for a non-smoker and 69 for a former smoker.
The authors of the Danish study estimate persons with HIV lost five years of life expectancy due to their HIV infection compared to twelve life years lost because of smoking. In Malawi, life expectancy is much lower (54 years), but smoking would still have the same negative effect for people with HIV.
Interestingly, studies around the world have found that people with HIV are two or three times more likely to be smokers than people the same age not infected with HIV. The reasons are not clear, but may have to do with lifestyle.
As of 2010, 26 percent of Malawian men smoked while three percent of women smoked putting Malawi’s average at 14 percent of adult smokers. How many of those have HIV is unknown.
In the absence of HIV, in general, smokers are more likely to have heart disease and cancer. Couple smoking and HIV together substantially increases the risks of lung infections, including acute bronchitis, bacterial pneumonia, PCP, and TB.
Smokers are approximately three times more likely than non-smokers to develop the Aids-defining pneumonia PCP. Oral thrush, a common complaint in people with HIV, is also more common among smokers. Emphysema, a smoking-related illness, occurs much more commonly in HIV-positive smokers than HIV-negative smokers.
In people with HIV, smoking can weaken the immune system, making it more difficult to fight off serious infections and making it even harder to fight off HIV-related infections.
In addition, people with HIV who smoke are more likely to suffer complications from HIV medication than those who don’t. For example, those who smoke are more likely to experience nausea and vomiting from taking HIV medications. Smoking can interfere with processing of medications by the liver. It can also worsen liver problems such hepatitis.
Convinced to quit? I hope so. So how do you quit. Smoking is an addictive. It is not easy to stop. In developed countries, support can be provided in the form of counselling, alternative treatments and nicotine withdrawal treatments, but in Malawi it seems the only option is to go “cold turkey” – giving it up.
Easier said than done, but consider all the benefits – your health, your family, and your finances.