HIV and Smoking: Increased Health Risks in HIV-Positive Individuals Who Smoke


Smoking poses a significant health risk and remains a leading cause of death around the world. Tobacco use causes more than six million deaths annually due to heart disease cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other diseases according to the American Cancer Society. People suffering from HIV who also smoke face even greater health dangers than the general public. 

Within the United States, 19 percent of the population smokes tobacco products. Interestingly, the smoking rate increases three to five times in adults who are HIV-positive, according to

Studies have shown that smoking elevates the risk of numerous health issues such as bacterial pneumonia, thrush, hairy leukoplakia and pneumocystis pneumonia in HIV-positive individuals. It is also believed that HIV and smoking increased the risks of developing lung cancer, neck cancer, head cancer, cervical cancer, anal cancer, COPD, heart disease and stroke. Danish studies have revealed that smoking causes HIV sufferers who are undergoing well organized HIV care with antiviral drugs to significantly lose more years of life overall than those who do not smoke. It is believed that smoking also lowers the effectiveness of antiretroviral therapy (ART), which is used by most HIV-positive individuals to prevent the virus from multiplying and destroying the body’s CD4 cells, states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Quitting smoking provides immediate health benefits to any individual, but it is especially true for HIV-positive individuals. HIV sufferers who are smokers should seek medical advice from their health care provider about the numerous programs and assistance that can be provided to stop smoking. Even after the individual ceases to smoke, he or she should also avoid second-hand smoke which also poses increased health risks to HIV-positive sufferers.