The Smoking Project with Sean Rourke

Published 12, Nov, 2012
Author // Bob Leahy - Publisher

Today marks the unveiling of an important collaboration between ourselves and the OHTN designed to bridge research and action, to improve the health and well-being of people living with HIV who smoke. Here Bob Leahy interviews OHTN head Sean Rourke.

The Smoking Project with Sean Rourke

Many people will know Dr. Sean Rourke, Scientific and Executive Director of the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN). He’s approachable, eloquent and clearly highly committed. You’ll get a sense of all that in the video which follows where he talks about The Smoking Project.

I don’t want to paraphrase what he says, but one of the frustrations of anyone involved in the research field must be the historic difficulty of turning research in to practice. “I think the OHTN’s role is to provide the evidence to make healthy choices” he says in the interview below, “not just to look at the problem but the solution.”

In the interview you’ll see that the OHTN, in collaboration with, is taking that evidence-based approach to health promotion one step further with The Smoking  Project, announced today at the OHTN Research Conference.  It comes from the recognition that people living with HIV have much higher smoking rates than in the general population, often for good reason, but the impact on PHA health, longevity and quality of life needs to be addressed. That's a wellness issue whose solution will, I think, comfortably fit in to the variety of other solutions to help people living with HIV live healthier and longer that we already provide.  And an important one too. Many experts would say, in fact, that stopping smoking is the best thing someone living with HIV can do for their health, bar none.

So far, things like smoking cessation programs have not been widely offered or  even referrals made, by organizations that serve people living with HIV, or to any great extent, by their doctors. The Smoking Project wants to change that, while coming from a place that recognizes that people living with HIV need solutions tailored to their history and their circumstances. That often includes  support.

We here at have aired more than a few articles on the issue of smoking and HIV in the last few months.  We’re not anti-smoking zealots. Rather we recognized, after carefully reviewing the research, including the OHTN’s, that there is an unmet need here.  So we decided some time ago  to put a  spotlight on an issue that hasn’t hereto been given the attention it deserves

But more than just highlighting the issue, we are delighted to be teaming up with the OHTN on this joint initiative. You’ll see both our logos on project material, and both Sean and I will be playing an active part in the project’s leadership.

That we are partners with the OHTN  on this initiative marks, of course, a significant step in’s evolution, which makes us both happy and proud. Like the OHTN we are not just interested in identifying what are the unmet needs in the community we are so much part of, we want to be part of the solution too.

In any event, why talk more?  As I said at the beginning, Sean is an eloquent speaker. I’ll let him tell you about The Smoking Project.

About the Author

Bob Leahy - Publisher

Bob Leahy - Publisher

Award-winning blogger Bob Leahy first made his social media mark a decade ago on where there are still to this day almost 3,000 entries of his available to be read. He was a featured blogger on Ontario’s campaign, along with founder Brian Finch. He joined at its inception in 2009 and became it's Editor a year later.

Born in the UK, Bob’s background is in corporate banking, which he gladly left in 1994, after being diagnosed with HIV the previous year.  He has chaired the board of PARN (Peterborough AIDS Resource Network) and has been an executive board member of both the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN) and the Canadian AIDS Society (CAS).  He was inducted in to the Ontario AIDS Network’s Honour Roll in 2005.  Bob is currently a member of Ontario’s GMSH (Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance). He also writes for

In 2012, Bob was honoured with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal for his work and commitment to HIV/AIDS in Canada.

Bob continues to write for this site while in the Positivelite.Com editor’s seat, with a particular interest  in HIV prevention, theatre and the arts in general. He is accredited media for a number of Toronto theatres. He lives in Warkworth, Ontario with his partner of thirty-two years and three dogs.