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They looked at nearly 3,000 HIV patients who were treated in Denmark from 1995 to 2010 and received well-organized care with free access to antiretroviral therapy. The researchers found that more than 60 percent of the deaths that occurred among the patients were associated with smoking rather than HIV.
They also found significant differences in life expectancy between HIV patients who smoked and nonsmokers. For example, a 35-year-old patient who smoked had a life expectancy approaching 63 years, compared with more than 78 years for a nonsmoking patient who was the same age, according to the study, which appears online Dec. 19 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
The loss of years of life associated with smoking was twice as high as that associated with HIV, and the increased risk of death among HIV patients who smoked was three times higher than among people not infected with HIV, according to a journal news release.
"Our findings emphasize the importance of counseling HIV patients on smoking cessation, as smoking may impact their life expectancy considerably more than the HIV infection itself," wrote Dr. Marie Helleberg, of Copenhagen University Hospital, and colleagues.
Although the study tied nonsmoking to longer life in HIV patients, it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship.
-- Robert Preidt
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