Smoking doesn’t make living with HIV any easier


Smokers with HIV lose more years of life to cigarettes than to the disease itself and such people need to be convinced to take what sounds to  be  the difficult step – to stop smoking.

Although efforts have been made in Namibia to discourage people to quit and stay away from smoking by introducing new policies and programmes such as the Tobacco Products Control Act, Act No. 1 of 2010 that ban people from smoking in public places and insists that health warning signs must be displayed at all points of tobacco is sold, more still needs to be done.

International evidence suggests that featuring pictorial health warnings on tobacco packaging is an effective tobacco control intervention.

The Ministry of Health and Social Services has been running a national campaign in the media carrying serious health warning messages and images of the negative impact of smoking in a human body.

Despite all these efforts by the government, I personally feel more could still be done to discourage smoking especially among those living with HIV and AIDS.

It is obvious that lighting up a cigarette, especially if it’s something you’ve always done, may not seem like a very big deal. But it is. People living with HIV who smoke have an almost three-fold greater risk of heart attack than HIV-negative smokers, according to Danish data published online ahead of print in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Studies show that if you have HIV, the harmful effects of smoking are greatly magnified, even when the disease appears to be under control with medication. “HIV treatment with potent combination antiretroviral therapy has produced rapid and remarkable improvements in mortality and mobility outcomes, yet persons living with HIV still face substantial health risks,” the report reads.

Research shows that in addition to accelerating the development of well-known adverse health, the consequences of tobacco use and smoking places HIV positive persons at risk of serious HIV-related comorbidities and premature death.

According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), individuals living with HIV who smoke are more prone to HIV-related opportunistic infections such as developing tuberculosis and Pneumocystis pneumonia, even if they are taking antiretroviral drugs.

Smoking is also associated with the development of oral candidiasis, a yeast or fungal infection of the mouth in people living with HIV.

 The above facts call for behaviour change among HIV-positive smokers. Nowadays HIV positive people can live just as long as those without the infection.

As a result it is easy to stay free of the hazards of the chronic illness if you really know how to take care of oneself. This is why all of us should be anti-smoking advocates and to encourage those who smoke to quit and discourage those who do not smoke, never to start.

The World Tuberculosis Day, which falls on March 24 each year, was designed to build public awareness about the global epidemic of tuberculosis (TB), and my advice to those that finding it difficult to give up smoking is that: If HIV is now very manageable with antiretroviral drugs, why would anyone jeopardize their health by smoking? Why not just kick the smoking habit for good?

March 2015
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