Studies presented this week at the 2004 National STD Prevention Conference in Philadelphia are confirming what many AIDS advocates have long suspected, that crystal meth use and Internet usage play key roles in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, among gay men, the AIDS Institute reports. "The STD conference confirms what we in the field have known for years--that using crystal decreases inhibitions, increases the feeling of invulnerability, and is resulting in rising numbers of HIV and sexually transmitted diseases," says Gene Copello, executive director of the AIDS Institute.
Data presented at the STD conference from a San Francisco study show that gay men who regularly use crystal are more than twice as likely to be HIV-positive than nonusers. They are also 1.7 times more likely to be infected with gonorrhea and are nearly five times more likely to have syphilis. "Add to this mix the fact that HIV spreads more easily when a STD is present, and a study noting that HIV-positive men who have sex with men are about twice as likely to test positive for gonorrhea is not astounding. Nor is it surprising, then, that there are syphilis outbreaks occurring in some measure across the nation," says Marc Cohen, a board member of the AIDS Institute and president of the United Foundation for AIDS.
Other studies presented at the STD conference included a Los Angeles research project that showed that 22% of 587 gay and bisexual men recently diagnosed with syphilis reported meeting one or more recent sex partners through the Internet as well as a study of Seattle gay men that showed only 36% of the men were aware of the HIV status of their last sex partner.
"Beyond the statistical information, this conference has proved relevant because the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has taken note of this trend and, more important, is looking for ways to provide resources to agencies that have been creatively using the Internet as a prevention tool to try and halt it," Cohen adds. "It's encouraging to see them looking at new pieces to incorporate into the prevention puzzle."