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California AIDS
organizations seek crystal meth funds

California AIDS
organizations seek crystal meth funds

State lawmakers are slow to move on requests for crystal meth funding.

Several California AIDS service organizations are seeking state tax dollars to help fight the spread of HIV among gay men who use crystal methamphetamine, but so far lawmakers have expressed little interest in approving the money, reports the Bay Area Reporter. The groups are seeking $7.5 million in grants to the state Office of AIDS to address the links between crystal meth use and high HIV infection rates among gay and bisexual men.

Study data published on the San Francisco AIDS Foundation's Web site show that about 10% to 20% of California's gay men use meth and that gay meth users are up to four times more likely to become infected with HIV than nonusers. Health officials believe that as many as one half of the estimated 5,100-6,800 new HIV infections occurring annually among California's gay men are linked to crystal meth use.

But despite these alarming figures, a California assembly budget subcommittee recently took no action on the funding proposal by the AIDS agencies, and lawmakers in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Legislative Caucus also aren't sure of the best approach to secure the funding, particularly in light of ongoing state budget deficits. The gay-specific focus of the planned outreach efforts also may be causing some lawmakers to balk, say some legislators.

"What I have suggested to some of the advocates, and what I had understood our caucus might be able to support, is if we could package the request in such a way so it is not just for gay men but would benefit a broader constituency," out state assemblyman Mark Leno told the Bay Area Reporter. "Clearly, the meth epidemic is impacting rural districts as well as urban districts, so we could build a coalition."

The state senate and assembly budget committees may next address the funding request when they meet on May 8. (The Advocate)

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