Crystal methamphetamine use is fueling HIV infections among gay and bisexual white men, according to a study presented Wednesday at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2005 National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. A study conducted by officials at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center showed that almost one in three gay or bisexual men who received a positive HIV antibody test at the center in 2004 reported using crystal meth, about triple the rate reported at the center in 2001. More than 10% of all gay men taking HIV antibody tests at the center reported meth use in 2004, double the rate reported in 2001. White men were significantly more likely to report crystal use than other racial groups, according to the study.
Health officials say crystal use leads to HIV infections by increasing sexual arousal and lowering inhibitions, which frequently leads to unprotected sex, often with multiple partners. Meth use also has been shown to make the cells of the anus particularly susceptible to HIV infection, significantly boosting the already high HIV risks associated with unprotected anal sex.
Being Alive, a Los Angeles AIDS service organization, plans to launch a crystal meth education campaign later this month that encourages drug users to practice safer sex and for those who are HIV-positive to begin antiretroviral therapy and take steps to prevent transmitting the virus to others, the Los Angeles Times reports.