All Rights reserved
Health officials in New York City say crystal meth use among gay men has fueled increases in syphilis and HIV infections in the city, The New York Times reports. Some doctors report that half of their gay patients who've recently tested positive for HIV said meth use led to the risky acts that resulted in HIV transmission. Meth use can lower inhibitions, affect judgment, and provide a stimulant-driven high that allows some men to have numerous sexual encounters with multiple partners in a single night, health experts say. City health commissioner Thomas Frieden said a recent survey showed that HIV-positive men are twice as likely to report meth use as HIV-negative men. Officials at the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, the city's largest private clinic for gays and lesbians, report that two thirds of the men testing positive for HIV infection there since June say that meth use played a role in the risky sex that led to their infections. Condom use also is more common among gay and bisexual men who do not use the drug, according to Frieden. Despite growing evidence that meth use is boosting HIV infection rates in the city, health officials and community groups that serve gay and bisexual men have yet to devise a strong outreach plan to address the problem, according to the Times. "This drug is destroying our community," said physician Howard Grossman. "It just seems to be getting worse and worse, and no one is doing anything about it." Peter Staley, a member of the New York chapter of ACT UP, says he's spent more than $6,000 of his own money to place ads in city phone booths pointing out the dangers of meth use. "My goal is to get the drug the reputation it deserves," he said. "I want crystal to get the stigma that heroin has. It is not glamorous; it is not alluring."