You’ve heard it before – ‘you need to quit smoking’. But if you have HIV, the plea is even more desperate. A serious complication already common amongst those who are HIV positive is even more prevalent among those who smoke.

One of the most dangerous yet common infections that afflicts HIV patients is bacterial pneumonia. A recent study has shown that HIV-positive individuals who smoke have a 200% greater risk of contracting this life threatening illness than non-smokers with HIV. The study further revealed that when a smoker quits the risk is reduced greatly (although not entirely). Thousands of HIV-positive participants across three continents were involved in this extensive study connecting smoking with a higher risk of pneumonia.

While the risk was still higher for smokers even after quitting, it reduced the risk by about one-third – so it is vital for HIV patients who smoke to make this adjustment. The results were the same regardless of the type(s) of treatment already being received by patients, or the current progression of the disease – the sole factor that altered risk was whether or not the person smoked.

Thanks to antiretroviral drugs those with HIV now have a normal lifespan, but smoking can still reduce it by increasing the risk of this potentially fatal illness. While antiretroviral drugs keep HIV from progressing, they don’t cure the condition – patients still need to take every precaution they can to avoid diseases like bacterial pneumonia.

Researchers want programs to help HIV patients quit smoking to become a part of treatment plans in order to reduce these risks. Once someone is infected it can be extremely difficult for someone with HIV to recover bacterial pneumonia. This serious lung condition is just one of the many reasons individuals who are HIV positive need to quit smoking.