Smoking More Dangerous to HIV-Positive Individuals than the Virus, App Shares STD Info, Ovulation Affects Attraction


Smoking and HIV: Tobacco Is More Dangerous to HIV-Positive Individuals than the Virus Itself

As we all know, HIV infection is no longer the death sentence it once was. Not anymore. Today, with proper treatment HIV-positive individuals can lead long and healthy lives. Like with anyone else, however, this long life may be cut short by smoking.

A new study examined the health records of nearly 3,000 Danish individuals with HIV from 1995 (which was the year antiretroviral triple therapy became standard) until 2010. The study, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, found that “a 35-year-old HIV patient who did not smoke was likely to live to age 78, while one who smoked was likely to die before age 63….”

Denmark has universal health care which provides HIV-treatment through AIDS centers across the country. According to the study’s authors, this means that “treatment failures and loss to follow-up are rare.”

The study also compared these HIV patients with average Danes of the same age and sex. It found that smoking is more dangerous for HIV-positive individuals than it is for those who are not infected with the virus. Infected individuals who smoked had a higher risk of early death from cancer or heart diseases than smokers who were not infected. Moreover, “smoking was more closely linked to early death than was obesity, excess drinking or baseline viral load (a measure of how sick a patient was at diagnosis).”

The study’s conclusions are fairly straightforward—doctors should urge their HIV-positive patients to quit smoking. 

New App Provides “Certified” STD Information

So you’re standing in a bar looking at a hot guy. Half of you is thinking that maybe you’ll take him home that night, you know, just for fun while the other, more cautious half, is reminding you that he could have any number of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and there’s no way to know just by looking at him (or even at his penis). It’s probably too late at night for him to get a copy of his medical records forwarded to you, so what do you?  

The developers at MedXCom think they can help you with exactly this situation. Their new app encourages users to get tested for STDs. For those who test positive, the app helps them coordinate treatment and follow-up. Those who test negative can have their health care provider post their status to the app and then share this “certified” status with potential sexual partners—apparently through a phone bump, if your phone does that kind of thing.  

I suppose there is room in this digital world for all kinds of apps and anything that encourages people to get tested and know their STD status is good. Though I must say such an impersonal exchange of personal information seems like an odd way to start a relationship and it doesn’t really promote active communication about sex. A better idea in my opinion would be to ask your partner or pick-up point blank about STDs—sure they could tell a lie or even more likely just not know their status but it’s a start.

Most importantly, however, regardless of what he says or what her phone tells you—use a condom.

How Women Feel About Their Partners Based on Sex Appeal and Ovulation

Every few months, new research reminds us that we really are the product of an evolutionary cycle designed to spur the propagation of the species. Past research on women and ovulation, for example, has found that men find women who are ovulating more attractive and that women are more attracted to masculine faces and bodies when they are fertile than at other points in the month. The latest research suggests that how women react to their partner throughout the month is related to both their ovulation cycle and their existing opinion of how sexy their partner is.

Researchers enrolled 108 heterosexual women who had been in a committed relationship for an average of two years and were not on birth control pills, breast feeding, or pregnant. The women were asked the same set of questions at two different points in their cycle (the points were confirmed by ovulation tests). The questions asked how close they were to their partner, how satisfied they were with their relationships, what they thought of as their partners faults and virtues, and how sexy other women would find their partner compared to other men. 

The researchers concluded that the heterosexual women who thought their partners were highly desirable were likely to feel more satisfied with their relationship just before ovulation than at less fertile times of the month. The opposite was true of women who did not think their partners were so sexy—these women were likely to be more critical of their partners and not feel as close to them at ovulation.

According to the authors, these findings confirm previous research that women choose mates for two co-existing reasons: “one leading to preferences for sexually desirable men who have high-fitness genes, and one leading to preferences for men who are able to invest in a woman and her children.”

LiveScience writer Jennifer Abbasi spoke with the study’s authors and explains it this way:

“Dissatisfaction with a less sexually desirable partner when a woman is near ovulation may have encouraged cheating among our female ancestors, thus increasing the likelihood of conceiving children with sexually desirable partners…because sexually desirable traits like masculine appearance in men are thought to have indicated genetic quality in ancestral environments, these couplings outside the primary partnership might have provided an evolutionary advantage for ancestral women.”

The authors plan additional research to determine whether today’s women really do act on these changes in feelings toward their partner either by treating them differently or by cheating on them. 

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Follow Martha Kempner on twitter: @MarthaKempner