In Special issue of ‘Behavioral Medicine,’ Halkitis Draws Attention to Smoking, Biopsychosocial Issues in HIV, and Aging

Thanks to improved treatments, people with HIV are living longer; soon more than half of all HIV cases in the United States will be in those 50 years of age and older. Research on long-term outcomes and aging with HIV is dramatically growing to better understand the challenges faced by older adults with HIV.

Perry N. Halkitis, a professor of applied psychology, public health and medicine and associate dean of academic affairs at NYU’s Global Institute of Public Health, serves as editor-in-chief of the journal Behavioral Medicine. A special issue of the journal – “Biopsychosocial Challenges of Older Adults Living with HIV” – was published in August 2014.

The special issue begins with an article authored by Halkitis and Timothy G. Heckman of the University of Georgia College of Public Health. They write that the demands of aging create stress in all lives, but these conditions are heightened among individuals living with HIV. Prior studies “underscore the complexities of living and aging with HIV and…point to the fact that HIV/AIDS is a disease, best understood and most effectively treated, using approaches informed by a biopsychosocial lens as opposed to a purely biomedical one.”

One of the six research articles in the special issue focuses on smoking and health issues among older HIV-positive men. The study was led by Danielle C. Ompad, a research associate professor of public health at NYU Steinhardt, and was coauthored by Halkitis and other members of NYU’s Center for Health, Identity, Behavior, & Prevention Studies.

The researchers studied nearly 200 HIV-positive gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men 50 years of age and older. Overall, 35.7% currently smoked, 35.7% formerly smoked, and 28.6% never smoked.

The study demonstrates a high prevalence of cigarette smoking among the men studied, and provides evidence for a relationship between smoking and HIV-related health issues, including opportunistic infections. The researchers stress that smoking cessation programs within the context of HIV care are warranted to help older men with HIV quit.

By Rachel Harrison

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Caption: An NYU study shows a high prevalence of cigarette smoking among older men with HIV, and provides evidence for a relationship between smoking and HIV-related health issues. © iStock/Arne Trautmann