Syed Kadri of Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus says the disease has gone from being an automatic death sentence to a chronic condition, and like all chronic conditions, it brings with it other complications that can seriously affect the lives of those who have it.
Kadri and colleagues studied lung function in patients -- mostly men in their 40s -- half of whom were smokers. At the end of two years, the 63 patients who were smokers displayed marked declines in lung function more typically found in elderly individuals with a long history of smoking.
"These results indicate that HIV-positive patients are more susceptible to lung-related problems than HIV-negative individuals and that HIV-positive smokers are even more susceptible to developing early emphysema," Kadri said in a statement.
"We don't know when these differences begin to manifest in HIV-positive individuals who smoke, but the severity is likely a function of the time that they have lived with the disease."
The findings were presented at the 105th International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in San Diego.