San Francisco Supervisors Mull Resolution Requiring Merchants to Post Health Risks of ‘Poppers’
The inhalant amyl nitrate, also known as "poppers," is "staging a comeback" among gay men in San Francisco, and city officials are worried about the drug's health risk and its role in HIV transmission, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. A panel of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors has drafted a resolution calling on health and law enforcement officials to "revive health warnings" about poppers, which have been linked to immune system suppression and the development of Kaposi's sarcoma, an AIDS-related skin cancer. The panel's resolution requests that a letter be sent to the city Department of Public Health and the district attorney's office asking that merchants selling poppers be required to post warnings about the health hazards of the drug. During the 1980s, health officials banned the use of poppers in public places and required merchants to post warnings about their health risks. However, those warnings "disappeared" for unknown reasons during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Board of Supervisors President Tom Ammiano said that he would like to bring back penalties for merchants who do not post the health warnings.
'A Lethal Cocktail'
Although heterosexuals also use poppers, the drugs are especially popular among gay men, who say that poppers relax muscles and reduce pain during sexual intercourse. However, research has shown that poppers bring more blood vessels to the surface of the skin during sex, putting people at greater risk for contracting HIV. AIDS activists say the drugs are frequently used at gay bathhouses in the San Francisco area. James Loyce, deputy director of health for AIDS programs at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, said, "We know unprotected sex goes up when you mix poppers or other drugs together. It's a lethal cocktail." Loyce said he would like to see new health ordinances requiring merchants that sell poppers to also provide free condoms. However, gay activists and AIDS groups say that any effort to inform men about the health risks of poppers must be based in the gay community. Steve Gibson, co-executive director of the Stop AIDS Project, said, "If guys perceive that Tom Ammiano or Survive AIDS are telling them they can or can't do something, that is sure to be met with resistance. You have to involve the stakeholders, the guys who use poppers and the businesses that sell them ... and provide condoms." The full Board of Supervisors will vote on the resolution on Monday (Heredia, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/25).