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A study released this week by the Partnership for Community Health shows that while most HIV-positive people in the Phoenix area report being in good health, many also use illegal drugs including heroin, crystal methamphetamine, marijuana, ecstasy, and amyl nitrate, also known as poppers, the Arizona Daily Star reports. The survey of nearly 600 HIV-positive people showed that more than half say they had used poppers, 43% had used crystal meth, and 11% had used a combination of heroin and cocaine known as speedballs. Marijuana use also was very common, although some survey participants said they used the drug to counter the appetite-killing side effects of their anti-HIV medications.
"It's a huge problem," Mitchell Cohen, executive director of the Partnership for Community Health, told the Daily Star. He said the use of illegal drugs can damage the immune system of HIV-positive people and potentially harm their health, can lead users to be less adherent than necessary to their antiretroviral drug regimens, and lead to unsafe sex, which can expose others to the virus.