HIV and Smoking: Increased Dangers and Vulnerability

Those who smoke and are living with HIV are at an elevated risk of contracting HIV-related infections. Through supporting the HIV community, lives can be saved and health preserved among those already living with HIV.

Those living with HIV currently have more to look forward to in terms of quality of life, than those living with HIV several years ago. However, according to Medscape, those living with HIV are more likely to smoke than individuals who do not have HIV. In fact, approximately 419,000 people are currently living with HIV. Out of these people, almost half – 4 out of 10 – smoke cigarettes. Per ratio, this is more than twice as many smokers as those in the general public. Even with these statistics, the report further suggests that these individuals are less likely to quit smoking than their counterparts in the general public.

These statistics are startling, although something can be done. Through education, a light can be shined on the facts, thus, knowledge and truth can be spread. Many understand that smoking is “bad for you”. However, many do not realize the extent in which smoking damages the body; its organs, skin, brain, nervous system, and more. These effects are more severe in those living with HIV. Smoking may even interfere with medications and treatments, thus, negatively affecting these outcomes.

Why Does Smoking Affect People With HIV Differently?

Smoking affects those living with HIV differently than those who are not. This is primarily because of the fact that smoking weakens the immune system. In doing this, smoking decreases the immune system’s ability to ward off infections. This is a critical aspect of those fighting HIV. To have the immune system further degraded, smoking can reduce the number of healthy years lived. It is a fact that smoking will reduce the lifespan of those living with HIV more dramatically than individuals who are just living with HIV alone.

How Does Smoking Affect People With HIV?

Since having HIV increases the risk of contracting chronic lung diseases, smoking will merely exacerbate these issues. Smoking greatly increases the risk of contracting numerous respiratory diseases. HIV limits your ability to fight off these infections, therefore smoking takes an already risk-heavy situation, and increases it dramatically.

Certain treatments for HIV carry the possibility of suffering from side effects, and smoking increases their likelihood even more. The possible increase of heart attack due to treatment is vastly increased when the individual smokes, as smoking is one of the biggest contributors of heart attack and stroke. The same is true for the possible side effects of osteonecrosis and osteoporosis. These long-term effects are greatly increased due to smoking.

According to the CDC, smoking increases the likelihood of contracting HIV-related infections such as thrush, bacterial pneumonia, pneumocystis pneumonia, hairy leukoplakia, and more. In addition, those who smoke with HIV are at an increased risk of contracting life-threatening diseases associated with HIV, more so than those with HIV who do not smoke.


We are asking for support from those who are living with HIV, as well as friends, family, and medical staff close to individuals who are living with HIV. We need everyone to come together in order to spread the truth about smoking with HIV. Everyone needs to be aware of the enhanced risk they are subjecting themselves to, and those around them. Not only are they subjecting themselves to the dangers of smoking, they are also increasing the risk of contracting life-threatening diseases and infections associated with HIV. Through support and education we can help save the lives, and preserve the health, of those living with HIV and suffering from smoking addiction.

Published: July 8, 2015 Updated: February 28, 2019



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