HIV+ gay men at “increased risk” from smoking diseases

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HIV positive gay men are more likely to suffer from a variety of smoking related illnesses than HIV negative smokers, a gay health charity has claimed.

Gay Men Fighting AIDS (GMFA) said: “evidence for this has been growing over the last few years, and these increased risks often have nothing to do with a weakened immune system.”

The group points to an increase in the number of cases of “non-AIDS defining cancers” among people who are living with the virus.

“The dangers of smoking are well-known but fewer people are aware of the increased risks that smoking holds for people living with HIV,” said Matthew Hodson, Head of Programmes for GMFA.

“HIV treatments are working to extend the life expectancy of people living with HIV, but these can have a health impact of their own and so it is more important than ever that those who are infected with HIV take care of themselves and their health.”

The charity is launching a new advertising campaign to inform HIV positive gay men of the increased risk to their health posed by smoking and online information for HIV positive smokers.

“Data shows that gay men are more likely to smoke than the general population, and gay men living with HIV are more likely to smoke than HIV negative or untested gay men,” GMFA said in a statement.

“Since combination therapy became available, which has extended the life expectancy of people with HIV, there has been an increase in the number of cases of ‘non-AIDS defining cancers’ amongst people who are living with the virus.

“Cancers such as lung cancer and anal cancer are now becoming much more common in people living with HIV, and one of the major risk factors for these cancers in smoking.

“Lung cancer is now often seen in HIV positive people with strong immune systems and under the age of 40.

“Anal cancer is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which is more common and more likely to lead to anal cancer in HIV positive people.

“Smoking causes HPV to replicate faster, in turn increasing the risk of anal cancer developing.

“Emphysema, an incurable disease causing the walls of the lungs to disintegrate normally associated with long term smokers in their 60s or 70s, is now being seen more often in younger HIV positive smokers.

“The use of anti-HIV drugs causes an increased risk of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease – heart attacks and strokes – and this is due to the hardening of the arteries.

“Smoking has for a long time been known to also increase this risk and so HIV positive smokers are at a greater risk of these illnesses than their HIV negative counterparts.”

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