Women with HIV infection, who tend to be urban and poor, get less benefit from drugs for the disease if they smoke, regardless of how much they smoke, according to a new study released on Tuesday.
The study of 924 women in the US found that those who smoked while taking highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) were 53 percent more likely to die than non-smokers over the study period of almost 8 years.
“Smoking had a fairly pervasive impact on the effect of HAART,” said Joseph Feldman of SUNY Downstate Medical Center, adding that the results were important because a large percentage of women with HIV are smokers.
Smokers also had a higher viral load and a lower CD4 count, measurements that indicate more advance disease, the study found.
Women who smoked were 36 percent more likely to be diagnosed with AIDS-related illnesses, such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or wasting syndrome.
Smoking is much more common among people with less education and income, making these findings important because these are also the people at greatest risk for acquiring HIV in the United States, the study said.
The study did not determine what the link was between smoking and AIDS medicines, but Feldman said one result of the study should be smoking cessation programs for women with AIDS.
“Smokers may be risk-takers who may not take the medication as carefully as non-smokers. That was something we tried to piece out of the data, (but) even after we adjusted for risk-taking, smokers did less well on HAART,” said Feldman.
Revision date: July 8, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD