UT Tobacco Research team develops initiative to provide smoking cessation resources to Texas residents

Anusha Lalani

Technological innovations are allowing HIV-positive residents of Austin to receive faster, more efficient care to battle nicotine addiction.

The UT Tobacco Research and Evaluation Team is partnering with AIDS Arms, an organization in Dallas that provides treatment and counseling to people with HIV/AIDS, in order to develop a tobacco cessation program known as eTobacco Protocol for Texas residents. The program refers patients to Texas Quitline, which offers free tobacco cessation services such as a two-week nicotine replacement therapy and five telephone-based cessation counseling sessions.

Through the eTobacco Protocol, AIDS Arms, along with the help of the UT Tobacco Research and Evaluation Team, has established an electronic referral link to Quitline’s services that was not previously available. AIDS Arms is the first HIV clinic in the state to incorporate the Quitline protocol, which uses electronic medical records to deliver tobacco cessation resources, into its services. 

“Professors at UT-Austin developed this program, and we are one of the sites that is doing the program,” said Tori Hobbs, chief development officer for AIDS Arms. “If you are a client, and you smoke, and you want to stop smoking, they can help connect you to the resources.”

Hobbs said the main reason why AIDS Arms partnered with UT was because the initiative would work well in large cities like Austin. 

“Lots of people who are HIV positive also smoke, so we’re interested in the overall health of our patients and thought this was a great program,” Hobbs said. “It’s free for any patient who wants to do it.”

Shelley Karn, program director for the Tobacco Research and Evaluation Team at UT, said the program does not focus on treatment but on outreach, especially for people who might not be able to pay for tobacco
cessation resources.

“We facilitate a source of getting a referral in place, and AIDS Arms will make a referral to the Texas Quitline,” Karn said. “We don’t do the tobacco counseling.” 

Dr. John T. Carlo, chief executive officer for AIDS Arms, said the AIDS Arms program differs from other HIV initiatives thanks to modernized technology.

“[It differs because of] the integration with our information technology systems to better approach awareness between both the providers and the patients,” Carlo said. “There’s definitely something unique about this program that’s utilizing information technology that’s not seen through other initiatives.”