Prevalence and correlates of smoking among people living with HIV in South Africa

Jessica L. Elf, Ebrahim Variava, Sandy Chon, Limakatso Lebina, Katlego Motlhaoleng, Nikhil Gupte, Raymond Niaura, David Abrams, Jonathan E. Golub, Neil Martinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Smoking likely exacerbates comorbidities which people living with HIV (PLWH) are predisposed. We assessed prevalence and correlates of smoking among PLWH in South Africa, which has 7 million PLWH but inadequate reporting of smoking. Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted among randomly selected adults with HIV infection in Klerksdorp, South Africa. Current smoking was assessed by questionnaire, exhaled carbon monoxide (eCO), and urine cotinine. Results: Of 1210 enrolled adults, 753 (62%) were women. In total, 409 (34%) self-reported ever smoking: 301 (74%) were current and 108 (26%) were former smokers. Using eCO and urine cotinine tests, 239 (52%) men and 100 (13%) women were defined as current smokers. Nearly all smokers (99%) were receiving ART, and had a median (IQR) CD4 count of 333 cells/μL (181-534), viral load of 31 IU/mL (25-4750), and BMI of 21 kg/m2 (19-24). Adjusted analysis among men showed higher odds of smoking with marijuana use (OR = 7.5, 95% CI = 4.1 to 14.6). Among women, 304 (43%) reported using snuff, compared to only 11 (3%) of men, and snuff use was inversely associated with smoking (OR = 0.1; 95% CI = 0.05 to 0.2). A subset of participants (n = 336) was asked about alcohol use, which was positively associated with smoking for men (OR = 8.1, 95% CI = 2.8 to 25.9) and women (OR = 8.5, 95% CI = 2.9 to 26.8). Conclusion: Smoking prevalence among PLWH in South Africa is alarmingly high. Prevention and cessation strategies that consider marijuana and alcohol use are needed. Implications: As long-term HIV care continues to improve, more people living with HIV (PLWH) will die of diseases, including tuberculosis, for which smoking plays an important causal role. The prevalence of smoking is markedly higher among PLWH in high-resource settings, but data for Africa and other low-resource settings that shoulder the brunt of the HIV epidemic has previously not been well documented. We report an alarmingly high prevalence of smoking among PLWH in South Africa, particularly among men, and a strong association between current smoking and use of other substances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1124-1131
Number of pages8
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Aug 14 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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