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Women smokers with AIDS do worse on HIV meds-study

Written by: Staff

WASHINGTON, May 3 (Reuters) Women with AIDS, who tend to be urban and poor, get less benefit from medicines for the disease if they smoke, no matter if they smoke a lot or a little, according to a new study released.

The study of 924 women in America found those who smoked while taking a cocktail of anti-AIDS medicines called highly active antiretroviral therapy, or HAART, were 53 percent more likely to die than non-smokers during the nearly eight-year study.

''Smoking had a fairly pervasive impact on the effect of HAART,'' said yesterday Joseph Feldman of SUNY downstate Medical Center, adding that the results were important because a large percentage of women with HIV were smokers.

Smokers had a higher viral load and a lower CD4 count, measurements which both indicate poorer health, and the outcome was similar regardless of how much the women smoked, the study found.

Women who smoked were also 36 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ailments associated with AIDS, such as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma or wasting syndrome.

Smoking is much more common among people with less education and income, making these findings important because these are also the people at greatest risk for acquiring HIV in the United States, the study said.

The study did not determine what the link was between smoking and AIDS medicines, but Feldman said one result of the study should be smoking cessation programs for women with AIDS.

''Smokers may be risk-takers who may not take the medication as carefully as non-smokers. That was something we tried to piece out of the data, (but) even after we adjusted for risk-taking, smokers did less well on HAART,'' said Feldman.

Reuters CH DB0931

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