New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will spend $300,000 on a campaign urging gay and bisexual men to avoid using crystal meth, Gay City News reports. The money will fund a citywide educational campaign and a one-day conference to be held in June to educate health care providers about the dangers of the drug. Research has shown that gay men who use crystal are much more likely to engage in unprotected sex and show higher rates of HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases than nonusers. City health officials also say overdoses of crystal are becoming more common in New York, rising from none three years ago to more than two dozen in 2003.
"Among people who are already HIV-infected, crystal also increases risk," city health commissioner Thomas Frieden told the News. "It reduces the likelihood that people will take medications. It has some dangerous interactions with HIV medications. It may increase HIV viral activity. It accelerates HIV dementia and other health problems related to HIV," Frieden added.
The city campaign comes on the heels of two outreach efforts by local gay and AIDS groups to warn gay and bisexual men about the risks of crystal use. Those campaigns included an ad that carried the tagline "Huge sale! Buy crystal, get HIV free" and another ad timed to coincide with Mother's Day that depicts a card sent by a gay man who has become addicted to crystal and is engaging in risky behaviors.