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Reducing Tobacco Use in People Living with HIV

Advances in testing and treatment have changed the landscape of HIV in our country.

Better prevention and care has made HIV a controllable, chronic disease, rather than a terminal illness, and has meant that far fewer people die from AIDS (now called HIV Stage 3).

Today, people living with HIV (or PLWH, for short) who have access to good health care and advanced medications and who follow their treatment plan can enjoy long, healthy lives.

But, smoking can threaten that balance. It's a fact that smoking is the leading cause of preventable illness and death in Michigan and in the country as a whole. Every year, smoking causes nearly half a million deaths in the United States — more than 13,000 of them in Michigan.

PLWH are much more apt to smoke than are their peers. In fact, smoking prevalence is more than twice as high among PLWH in Michigan than among the general population (50 percent vs. 21 percent).

The advances in HIV testing and treatment, coupled with the relatively large number of PLWH who smoke, mean that today, individuals with HIV who smoke are much more likely to die from tobacco-related illness (such as lung cancer, heart disease, or stroke) than from complications of HIV Stage 3. It's ironic. People now survive HIV, only to die from a smoking-related disease.

Because so many PLWH in the state smoke, and because smoking is such a serious threat to health, the MDHHS Tobacco Section and the MDHHS HIV Care & Prevention Section have joined forces on the Tobacco Use Reduction in People Living with HIV project.

As part of the project, MDHHS is working with HIV/AIDS service organizations (ASOs) throughout the state* to accomplish three goals:

  • improve health outcomes in PLWHA (long-term goal);
  • increase the number of tobacco quit attempts (mid-term goal); and
  • increase the use of tobacco treatment clinical practice guidelines (short-term goal