New York's gay center launches crystal meth campaign
New York City's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center on Monday launched a campaign to fight crystal methamphetamine use in the city's gay community. It includes an expanded educational Web site, an advertising campaign targeted at gay youth, and expanded counseling services. The center has provided crystal meth counseling for the past four years but has decided to step up their efforts to target the growing number of meth uses, say center officials.
"There's no question about it: Crystal meth use is an epidemic in the gay and bisexual community," Richard Burns, executive director of the center, said in a press release. "Aside from the health problems that are directly related to crystal meth use, what we're really concerned about is the effect it has on people's judgment when it comes to practicing safe sex."
Recent studies have documented that among gay or bisexual men who use party or club drugs, approximately 62% reported frequent use of crystal meth. Another study cited on the center's Web site states that men who tested positive for HIV antibodies--even though they thought they were HIV-negative--had 11 times more unprotected receptive anal sex while high on meth than those who were confirmed to be HIV-negative.
The community center provides information and services on its Web site (www.gaycenter.org), including facts about the drug, a confidential online survey, links to other resources for education and support, and access to counseling. An innovative feature of the expanded Web site is the addition of 29 video clips attached to the survey, which provide firsthand accounts from users and ex-users about the risks and consequences of crystal use. The ad campaign focuses on gay and lesbian youths and includes advertisements in telephone kiosks throughout the Chelsea and the Garment District neighborhoods of Manhattan.
"The new ad campaign fills a critical gap in drug education for youth in our city," says Barbara Warren, director of organizational development, planning, and research for the center. "Young people ages 13 to 22 helped to inform and design this campaign, and they told us that although many of them had heard of crystal, they did not have facts about the effects and the risks of using it. We need to help current users and prevent others from starting use in the first place."