Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
Increased Crystal Meth Use Among Gay Clubbers in New York City Could Lead to Rise in Drug-Resistant HIV Cases
Methamphetamine use appears to be increasing among those who frequent New York City's "frenetic gay club scene," and health officials are worried that meth use may lead to a rise in unprotected sex and a decline in adherence to antiretroviral treatment among people with HIV, the
New York Times reports. Crystal meth, which is also known as crank, ice, speed or "blue-collar cocaine," produces a "seductive rush of power" and energy and heightens sexual desire "to extreme levels." The Times reports that the drug's power as an aphrodisiac leads to "excessive and dangerous" sexual behavior, including unprotected sex. In addition, those who use the drug often neglect outside needs, including food, sleep and prescription drugs. Dr. Antonio Urbina, an internist at St. Vincent's Manhattan Hospital, said that skipping even a few doses of antiretroviral drugs can "open the door to increased viral replication" and the formation of drug-resistant HIV strains. The Times reports that there are no official statistics on how widespread meth use is in New York City, but a recent study by the Center for HIV/AIDS Educational Studies and Training found that more than 50% of gay men in New York who said they had used alcohol or drugs also said they had "tried" meth in the previous year. A 1998 survey conducted at New York City bars and clubs found that 10% of gay men had tried crystal meth. Dr. Perry Halkitis, a New York University psychologist and the author of both studies, said that meth use will continue to spread among the gay community unless public health officials and gay leaders begin to "publiciz[e] the drug's destructive side" (Jacobs, New York Times, 1/29).
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