San Francisco Chronicle Examines ‘Dual Epidemic’ of Crystal Meth Use, HIV Infection
Crystal methamphetamine use among gay and bisexual men has "reached epidemic proportions," and health officials have linked the increased use of the drug -- a powerful form of speed -- with an increase in the number of HIV/AIDS cases among men who have sex with men, the San Francisco Chronicle reports in the first part of a three-part series on the drug, which is also known as crystal meth, chrissy, tina, tweak and crank. At a recent meeting in Sacramento, Calif., about crystal meth use, HIV/AIDS prevention officials said that gay men in the state who use the drug are twice as likely to be HIV-positive than gay men who do not use the drug. In addition, a California study found that of 63,098 gay and bisexual men tested for HIV at public clinics in 2001 and 2002, 7.1% who used crystal meth were HIV-positive, compared with 3.7% of gay and bisexual men who did not use the drug. Researchers also found condom use rates among gay men who use the drug are lower than among men who do not use crystal meth.
Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, San Francisco Department of Public Health's director of sexually transmitted disease prevention and control, said, "We have all sorts of levels of evidence [on HIV/AIDS and crystal meth use], and it's all pointing in the same direction: The crystal meth epidemic is playing an important role in increasing sexual risk behaviors and that is leading to new HIV and STD infections." Dr. Grant Colfax, director of HIV prevention studies for the San Francisco health department, is calling for a "full array" of programs, including treatment, counseling and prevention, to be "tailor-made" for crystal meth users who "fall below the drug-dependency radar." He also said, "We're trying to de-link substance abuse from risk behavior, to get guys to be safer while using substances. People use [crystal meth], and they're not able to assess their risk behavior." San Francisco officials are planning a televised hearing for Wednesday on crystal meth use in the gay community, the Chronicle reports. City Supervisor Bevan Dufty said, "I recognize people are going to make their own choices. But we have a responsibility to make it an informed choice," adding, "As community leaders and friends, we have to speak loudly about the clear and present danger of crystal meth." The second article in the series -- published today -- offers a "portrait of a crystal meth addict," and tomorrow the series will conclude with the story of a Walnut Creek, Calif., teenager's crystal meth use (Heredia, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/4).