smoking cessation; HIV-positive women; health disparities; formative research


Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Public Health | Women's Health


Although tobacco use among women living with HIV (WLWH) is decreasing, the prevalence is more than double that of women in the general population and remains an important health behavior to target among WLWH. Few smoking cessation interventions specifically focus on the unique social and medical needs of women living with HIV (WLWH). Thus, the investigative team engaged WLWH (N=18) in qualitative focus groups to: 1) understand barriers and facilitators to smoking cessation; and 2) inform intervention structure and content priorities. Participants identified salient reasons for smoking and barriers to smoking cessation, which included coping mechanisms for life stressors, HIV-related stress, HIV-related stigma, and social isolation. Further, WLWH highlighted the importance of long-term smoking cessation support, peer support, mental health content, religion/spirituality, and targeted risk messaging in smoking cessation intervention development. Study findings provide concrete, operational strategies for future use in a theory-based smoking cessation intervention, and underscore the importance of formative research to inform smoking cessation interventions for WLWH.