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Commentary & Opinion

HIV and Smoking: Burning Up Lives

December 16, 2005

"The culture of AIDS is a culture of smoking. While around 22 percent of Americans smoke, a recent study showed that up to 66 percent of people with HIV are lighting up. That's not all. People with HIV are at much greater risk of negative health outcomes related to smoking than those without the virus. Why would people whose health is already compromised engage in an activity that dramatically increases their risk of serious negative health outcomes? What can we do to help people with HIV stub out the danger?

Those were some of the questions asked at the world's first conference on HIV and smoking [Light Up Your Life: A Leadership Conference on HIV and Smoking] on Nov. 15 at Rockefeller University on the Upper East Side.

As an ex-smoker with HIV myself, I can tell you that many of us smoke to deal with the stress of having a serious, potentially life-threatening disease. Add to this the unintentional collusion of well-intentioned health care workers, some of whom still have the mindset of 'Oh, let 'em smoke, it's the one pleasure they have left.'

Well, it's time for a change. Programs need to educate people with the virus about the negative health impact of smoking and remind those on Medicaid that the program pays for nicotine replacement therapy.

We need to find novel ways of helping HIVers deal with the stress in their lives by methods other than smoking. Just as with the general population, about three-quarters of HIV-positive smokers want to quit. It's time we helped them.

QueerQuit 2006, a special one-shot workshop on everything you need to know about making that New Year's resolution a reality by quitting smoking for good, will take place on Thursday, Jan. 5, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and again on Saturday, Jan. 14, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the LGBT Community Center [in New York]. QueerQuit 2006 is free but registration is required. Call 212-620-7310, ext. 212, or visit for more information."

Christopher Murray, L.M.S.W., a substance use counselor, runs the LGBT SmokeFree Project at the Center and sits on the executive committee of the New York City Coalition for a SmokeFree City.

Back to other news for December 16, 2005

Adapted from:
Gay City News (New York)
12.01.2005; Christopher Murray

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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