Crystal Meth Use in NYC Could Lead to ‘Greater Epidemiological Disaster’ of Drug-Resistant HIV, Opinion Piece Says
Crystal methamphetamine use in New York City is rising, which is "prompting a dangerous increase in unsafe sex practices and many new cases of HIV infections," Perry Halkitis, co-director of the Center for HIV/AIDS Education Studies and Training at New York University, and Paul Galatowitsch, director of research for CHEST, write in a Long Island Newsday opinion piece. Halkitis and Galatowitsch say that recent data collected by CHEST show that men who have sex with men in New York City and who use crystal meth are 2.9 times more likely to contract HIV through receptive anal intercourse than MSM who do not use the drug. In addition, crystal meth use among other populations, including heterosexuals and adolescents, is becoming more widespread in the city. "A cascade of disasters is accompanying the rise in crystal meth use," Halkitis and Galatowitsch say, adding, "HIV-positive crystal meth users on HIV medications are missing more doses and are likely contributing to the spread of drug-resistant strains of HIV." The combination of drug use and the spread of drug-resistant HIV strains "may be setting the stage for a far greater epidemiological disaster by creating novel, super-spreading varieties of HIV," according to the opinion piece. Halkitis and Galatowitsch call for New York City officials to create an "aggressive response" to the crystal meth epidemic by "extend[ing] resources to train drug treatment programs to provide detoxification" to crystal meth users. The authors conclude, "New York City must not wait for unequivocal proof showing the association between crystal use and new HIV infections before mounting a decisive and intelligent response to this growing epidemic. ... We strongly urge the city to respond as creatively and compassionately as it has to syphilis, and to replicate its current efforts to vaccinate gay and bisexual men for hepatitis" (Halkitis/Galatowitsch, Long Island Newsday, 3/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.