AIDS Arms offers smoking cessation program



DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

Smoking can be an immune suppressant, so AIDS Arms is now offering a new smoking cessation program in conjunction with the University of Texas at Austin.

AIDS Arms Medical Director Dr. Gene Voskuhl said stopping smoking is the best thing people with HIV can do next to taking their medications.

The incidence of smoking is much higher in the HIV-positive population than the population in general. Voskuhl blamed that on HIV stigma as well as higher rates of smoking among gay people and other minority populations with higher rates of HIV in general.

The program was designed by the state with educators who know how to communicate, Voskuhl said, adding that the program is pretty simple.

“Ask, screen and intervene,” he said. “If they’re ready to quit in 30 days, we can support them.”

Doctors at AIDS Arms clinics will ask patients if they smoke and if they’re ready to quit. If so, they’ll refer them through their electronic medical records system that will send a very limited amount of data to the program in Austin.

Normally doctors can’t prescribe nicotine gum or patches, because they are over-the-counter medications. However, in this program, those can be supplied.

The person quitting will receive phone calls from nurses trained in motivational techniques.

Someone who tries, but fails to quit — maybe that person went from two packs a day to one — may be re-referred into the program three to six months later.

Voskuhl said once someone quits smoking, he should see an increase in CD4 cells. Celia in the lungs that help clear secretions and viruses should come back. Incidents of bronchitis and pneumonia should decrease. Someone with HIV who quits smoking should also see the usual benefits as well — lower chances for cancer, COPD and other illnesses.

Anyone who is a client of AIDS Arms, whether or not they are a patient at Trinity or Peabody health and wellness centers, may participate in the smoking cessation program.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 4, 2015.