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More than 900 people attended the first National Conference on Methamphetamine, HIV, and Hepatitis, held Friday and Saturday in Salt Lake City, which examined the links between crystal meth use and HIV and explored ways to encourage drug users to practice safer sex, TheSalt Lake Tribune reports. The conference also advocated a harm-reduction approach to meth use, which angered some conservative lawmakers, including U.S. representative Mark Souder of Indiana, who protested sponsorship of the conference by the Department of Health and Human Services because he says harm-reduction messages undermine federal antidrug policies.
Conference keynote speaker Patricia Case, a Harvard Medical School professor, says the growing popularity of crystal meth across the country is worrisome. "America has always loved stimulants," Case said in her address. "People take stimulants to accomplish things. It's chemical software and plays perfectly to our shared American qualities: the desire to be perfect, work harder, be smarter, be thinner, and win at all costs."
Crystal meth is popular among gay men because of its libido-enhancing and inhibition-lowering effects. But researchers say use of the drug also frequently leads to unprotected sex, often with multiple partners. A recent study by researchers in San Francisco shows gay men who use crystal meth are three times more likely to be HIV-positive than nonusers. A survey of gay and bisexual men taking HIV antibody tests in the city showed that about 6% of those reporting meth use tested positive for HIV infection; nonusers had a 2% infection rate.