Even if you re HIV-positive: Don t Smoke

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H.I.V. positive patients who smoke lose more years to smoking than to the virus itself, a new Danish study suggests.

Researchers from Copenhagen University tracked nearly 3,000 Danish H.I.V. patients from 1995 to 2010, comparing them with a pool of 10,642 Danes of the same age and sex. They found that health complications resulting from smoking and not from H.I.V. itself are actually the biggest cause of death among HIV-positive individuals. Smoking was more closely linked to early death than was obesity, excess drinking or baseline HIV viral load a measure of how sick a patient was at diagnosis.

Furthermore, Denmark has universal health care, the researchers noted in the study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. Thus, H.I.V.-positive Danes have free access to highly active antiretroviral therapies (HAART) and care is coordinated by AIDS centers around the country. Treatment failures and loss to follow-up are rare, the study said.

This study really puts the dangers of smoking in perspective, says ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan.