Tobacco and HIV
Keeping with DCTFC’s goal of reducing tobacco-related health disparities, DCTFC is focusing efforts on the issue of high rates of smoking in the HIV community.
The District has the highest rate of HIV infection in the nation, with one in 20 residents testing positive for HIV. Tobacco use greatly impairs the ability of the immune system to function properly and the ability of HIV medications to be properly absorbed, which is a particular concern for HIV+ smokers. It has been determined that tobacco use prevalence in the HIV community can be as high as 60 to 70%. Given the serious problems that can arise for HIV treatments in particular, DCTFC has convened a workgroup with two primary goals—1) to launch a public education campaign to raise awareness among HIV smokers how tobacco use negatively impacts their overall health outcomes, and outcomes associated with their HIV treatment; and 2) to raise awareness among healthcare providers how important it is to conduct an intervention for HIV+ smokers at every patient encounter to encourage them to quit.
In May 2009, DCTFC commissioned Witeck-Combs Communications to conduct a series of 4 focus groups with HIV+ smokers. The data and analysis from the groups are being used to create new anti-smoking advertising and education outreach for HIV+ smokers in DC. Utilizing the new anti-smoking themes and messaging developed from the focus group research, DCTFC and its working group members will run targeted smoking cessation grassroots outreach, advertising and education programs. All messaging will link HIV positive smokers to the District’s free Quitline, which provides free nicotine patches and lozenges if the smoker enrolls in the counseling protocol and provides community referrals to support group programs.
An HIV and Tobacco Dependence Treatment training was held for District HIV/AIDS providers on September 16 and 17 at United Medical Center. The two-day training was conducted by physicians and psychologists from the University of Medicine and Dentistry at New Jersey, and addressed the unique and critical clinical issues of tobacco dependence treatments related to HIV/AIDS treatments.
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