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Two in three HIV-positive Indians abuse tobacco products: Study

HIV-positive smokers live 12.3 years fewer than HIV-positive non-smokers, said researchers

health Updated: Jun 02, 2017 13:40 IST
Sadaguru Pandit
Sadaguru Pandit
Hindustan Times
About 68.3% of HIV-positive Indians consume tobacco, compared to a global average of 27.1%, revealed the study.(Photo for representation)

Two in three Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)-positive Indians abuse tobacco products, revealed a recent study published in Lancet Medical Journal.

About 68.3% of HIV-positive Indians consume tobacco, compared to an average of 27.1% in 28 low and middle income group countries (LMICs) across three continents.

The study, conducted by University of York, UK, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, South Africa and University of Zimbabwe is the largest of its kind, said researchers.

The study surveyed 18,224 HIV-positive patients, of whom 6,729 were men aged between 15 and 59 years, and 11,495 were women aged between 15 and 49 years. As many as 462 participants were Indians, of whom 279 were men and 191 women. The findings were compared to 1.93 lakh HIV-negative men and 2.22 lakh HIV-negative women from similar locations.

What doctors say
  • “We are currently looking at HIV-positive patients’ dependency on alcohol and tobacco. We will definitely go through the study and its recommendations,” said Dr Srikala Acharya, additional project director, Mumbai District AIDS Control Society.
  • “Tobacco abuse is a major cause of cancer. The clinical differences in how it impacts HIV-positive or HIV-negative patient has not been studied in detail. But, since HIV-positive patients are immune-compromised, the intake of carcinogenic products, such as tobacco, can put them at higher risk of developing cancer or other infections,” said Dr Devendra Chaukar, Surgical Oncologist, Tata Memorial Centre.

While 40.3% of HIV-positive Indians were tobacco smokers, the third largest section among the pool, 41.4% consumed tobacco products, nearly four times the number of consumers in Burundi, Africa (10.5%).

Global studies show that HIV-positive people are more susceptible to tobacco-related illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and pulmonary disease, compared to HIV-negative people. Smoking also increases HIV-positive patients’ susceptibility to infections such as bacterial pneumonia, oral candidiasis, and tuberculosis.

“HIV-positive smokers live 12.3 years fewer than HIV-positive non-smokers. Smoking kills an HIV-positive person twice as fast as the infection alone,” said researchers Dr Noreen D Mdege and his colleagues, citing past global studies.

Dr Mdege said more HIV-positive men and women consumed or smoked tobacco, compared to their HIV-negative counterparts. Experts attributed this to HIV-related neurological and mental conditions such as neuropathic pain, anxiety, stress, and depression.

“HIV-positive people face social stigma, mental and physical comorbidities, alcohol misuse, and co-dependencies on other substances. This influences their patterns of tobacco use, attempts to quit, and successful cessation rates. Future interventions should take into account these complex social, psychological, and other health challenges faced by most HIV-positive people,” he said.

Researchers said information on the dangers of tobacco use and the benefits of quitting need to be emphasised either through use of graphic health labels or culturally appropriate mass communication media.

“Countries with a high prevalence of tobacco use (such as India), should prioritise the introduction of tobacco cessation in their HIV treatment plans,” said the researchers.

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First Published: Jun 02, 2017 13:37 IST