An emerging syndemic of smoking and cardiopulmonary diseases in people living with HIV in Africa

Emmanuel Peprah, Mari Armstrong-Hough, Stephanie H. Cook, Barbara Mukasa, Jacquelyn Y. Taylor, Huichun Xu, Linda Chang, Joyce Gyamfi, Nessa Ryan, Temitope Ojo, Anya Snyder, Juliet Iwelunmor, Oliver Ezechi, Conrad Iyegbe, Paul O’reilly, Andre Pascal Kengne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: African countries have the highest number of people living with HIV (PWH). The continent is home to 12% of the global population, but accounts for 71% of PWH globally. Antiretroviral therapy has played an important role in the reduction of the morbidity and mortality rates for HIV, which necessitates increased surveillance of the threats from pernicious risks to which PWH who live longer remain exposed. This includes cardiopulmonary comorbidities, which pose significant public health and economic challenges. A significant contributor to the cardiopulmonary comorbidities is tobacco smoking. Indeed, globally, PWH have a 2–4-fold higher utilization of tobacco compared to the general population, leading to endothelial dysfunction and atherogenesis that result in cardiopulmonary diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and coronary artery disease. In the context of PWH, we discuss (1) the current trends in cigarette smoking and (2) the lack of geographically relevant data on the cardiopulmonary conditions associated with smoking; we then review (3) the current evidence on chronic inflammation induced by smoking and the potential pathways for cardiopulmonary disease and (4) the multifactorial nature of the syndemic of smoking, HIV, and cardiopulmonary diseases. This commentary calls for a major, multi-setting cohort study using a syndemics framework to assess cardiopulmonary disease outcomes among PWH who smoke. Conclusion: We call for a parallel program of implementation research to promote the adoption of evidence-based interventions, which could improve health outcomes for PWH with cardiopulmonary diseases and address the health inequities experienced by PWH in African countries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3111
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2 2021


  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Low-and middle-income countries
  • Smoking
  • Syndemics
  • Tobacco

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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