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Press Release

CDC Launches Full Press to Educate on Dangers of Smoking for HIV+

New CDC Tips Anti-Smoking Campaign Focuses on Getting HIV-positive Smokers to Quit

July 16, 2014

CDC Launches Full Press to Educate on Dangers of Smoking for HIV+

Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. -- The CDC's Tips From Former Smokers Campaign marks a historic partnership between the CDC's tobacco and HIV divisions to spread the news about the synergistic bad effects of smoking while HIV+.

CDC has been hosting national webinars with all of their tobacco grantees, all of their HIV grantees, and directly with HIV community based organizations to highlight the new Tips From Former Smokers ad featuring Brian, a gay HIV+ man who suffered a stroke from smoking. On the webinars CDC's Dr. John T. Brooks, a medical epidemiologist in their Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention explains how we now understand that HIV and smoking both exacerbate each other. "Even when your HIV is well managed, there's still a level of chronic inflammation. This HIV-related inflammation is a risk for many of the same health problems that smoking causes. When a person has HIV and smokes, emerging data suggest there is a combined negative effect." According to Dr. Brooks "If a person's HIV is under control, the risk of smoking remains and becomes a greater and often leading preventable risk for illness and death." In 2009, an estimated 42% of HIV+ individuals smoked, compared with 20% of the general population. CDC has also partnered with the American Academy of HIV Medicine to promote the new ad. The Academy will be running a series of articles on the campaign and offering special posters promoting the ad to their membership. Dr. Tim McAfee, the head of CDC's Office of Smoking and Health, stated "We're especially concerned with how people with HIV overlap with the LGBT communities, another population we know smokes at much higher rates than the general public."

Dr. Scout, the Director of CenterLink's Network for LGBT Health Equity, is especially pleased with the media investment accompanying the ad campaign. "Three years ago CDC's Tips From Former Smokers Campaign created one little rainbow ad. Last year they created a print ad featuring two lesbians. This year we see them not only creating this new ad featuring an HIV+ gay man, but also buying placement for it in dozens of LGBT specific regional and national media outlets."

The new Tips campaign features Brian, a gay HIV-positive spokesperson who suffered a stroke as a result of complications from having HIV and smoking. You can see Brian's tips video below. In the video Brian talks about his experience rebounding from advanced HIV infection, how despite successfully controlling his HIV he continued to be a smoker, and how he went on to develop a stroke that required surgery on an artery in his neck. "It took a stroke for me to actually stop smoking," said Brian, "smoking is something that you do have control over. You can stop. And it's worth your life to stop smoking." The video educates people that smoking with HIV increases the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and stroke. Additionally, information on the CDC's Tips website states that HIV-positive smokers are more likely to develop HIV-related infections than a nonsmoker with HIV; including thrush and Pneumocystis pneumonia, a dangerous lung infection. The print ads will run for the next seven weeks as part of the larger Tips From Former Smokers campaign. Digital versions of the ad in English and Spanish as well as social media buttons featuring Brian are downloadable from the CDC website.

Dr. Brooks noted that there appear to be no major drug interactions between medications for HIV and smoking cessation that would limit using cessation medications in most HIV-infected smokers. The ads urge smokers to talk to their doctors or call 1-800-QUITNOW for more information on how to quit. The Network for LGBT Health Equity has been working with quitlines to ensure staff serving many of the states in the country are trained in LGBT cultural competency. "Again, that's all through CDC funding," says Dr. Scout. "Many people in my communities don't trust that they will be welcome when they call quitlines, but CDC is making a demonstrated effort on many fronts to eliminate our smoking disparity."

Concludes Dr. Scout: "These new Tips ads speak to vitally important information that HIV-positive tobacco smokers need to hear; that once your HIV is under control, the next greatest threat to your health has a cure."

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This article was provided by The Network for LGBT Health Equity.
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