For Immediate Release: June 3, 2016
LANSING, Mich. – In Michigan, 50 percent of people living with HIV and in HIV treatment are smokers, according to a new survey administered through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Tobacco Control Program (TCP). In an effort to eliminate the tobacco-related health disparities in Michigan, in January 2015 the MDHHS TCP and MDHHS HIV Care and Prevention Section began collaborating to address the gaps in health issues. The partnership is the first of its kind in the nation.
“The general adult population in Michigan smokes at a rate of 21 percent, and we know that people living with HIV are smoking at a rate two to three times higher than that,” stated Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive for the MDHHS. “The partnership within the MDHHS tobacco and HIV programs is an excellent opportunity to improve access to science-based resources to help people living with HIV who want to quit smoking.”
The survey was a joint project between 15 Michigan AIDS Service Organizations (ASO) and with 1,475 HIV+ clients participating. Importantly, 59 percent of respondents are willing to quit smoking with guidance and support. This response rate indicates improvement over a prior survey conducted among ASO staff which found that 71 percent had never used – and were not familiar with – approved smoking treatment protocol to support their HIV client smokers in quitting.
HIV has become a chronic disease due to the positive impact of antiretroviral medication, which lengthens and improves quality of life for people living with HIV. However, studies show that people living with HIV who smoke cigarettes are dying 12 years sooner from smoking-related illness such as heart disease, cancer, and stroke, before dying of HIV complications.
The TCP was awarded $1.275 Million annually for three years and has partnered with 15 AIDS Service Organizations to offer HIV+ clients tobacco treatment. In the first year, MDHHS has worked with the ASOs on their tobacco knowledge and needs; assessed almost 1,500 HIV clients on attitudes and behaviors related to tobacco use; held client focus groups to gather tobacco use behavior and treatment methods; added additional U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved tobacco treatment medications to the MI AIDS Drug Assistance Program formulary; and trained 31 ASO staff as Tobacco Treatment Specialists.