Health officials in Atlanta say crystal meth use by gay men in the city has become a crisis and link abuse of the drug to rising rates of risky sexual behaviors, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and San Francisco Department of Public Health data, gay and bisexual men who use meth are twice as likely to have unprotected sex than nonusers and are more than three times as likely to be HIV-positive. Research also shows that meth use weakens the immune system and adversely interacts with antiretroviral medications, making the drug's use more serious for HIV-positive men.
Crystal meth abuse is commonplace among gay men in New York and San Francisco, where awareness campaigns have been launched in the past few months. But John Ballew, an Atlanta therapist with a large gay-male client base, tells the Journal-Constitution the problem "is just as bad" in Atlanta as in the other major cities. Health officials in Atlanta are just starting to recognize the problem, the newspaper reports, and most AIDS organizations in the area also have done little to date to address the meth abuse beyond distributing condoms in gay bars and clubs where meth users may be meeting sex partners.