Ronald Valdiserri, deputy assistant secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases and director, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy at the US Department of Health and Human Services, writes about the 37th Great American Smokeout organized by the American Cancer Society. The purpose of the smokeout is to encourage smokers to use the date to make a plan to quit or to quit on that day. He states that smokers, including those with HIV, will be making an important step toward a healthier life and reducing many health risks.
Valdiserri discusses why smoking is even more harmful for persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) than the general population. He uses the HRSA Guide for HIV/AIDS Clinical Care, and research to provide evidence that PLWHA should not smoke and should take advantage of the Great American Smokeout to quit. He lists the smoking-related problems in PLWHA, including the normal tobacco-related conditions such as lung cancer and other cancers, as well problems that are specific to PLWHA, such as decreased immunologic and virologic response to antiretroviral therapy, nonadherence to treatment, and a greater chance of being diagnosed with an AIDS-defining condition—or dying of the disease.
Valdiserri emphasizes the role of health care providers in encouraging and supporting PLWHA to quit smoking and references studies that document the importance of clinicians and other HIV service providers’ roles in encouraging smoking cessation and promoting health. To prepare to help patients who are trying to quit smoking, he suggests that HIV providers review the chapter on Smoking Cessation in the Guide for HIV/AIDS Clinical Care (2011), which contains information on behavioral and pharmacological interventions that may be useful. Valdiserri also provides a list of resources for persons who plan to quit smoking or are supporting others to do so.