AIDS Committee of Toronto Publicly Acknowledges Link Between Crystal Meth, Risky Sexual Behavior, HIV Transmission
The AIDS Committee of Toronto recently published a statement saying it believes that a link exists between crystal methamphetamine use, risky sexual behavior and the transmission of HIV, after it was criticized for failing to issue a warning sooner, the Toronto Star reports (Chung, Toronto Star, 8/18). HIV/AIDS agencies and health officials in Toronto in July said they were uncertain whether crystal methamphetamine use is associated with HIV transmission, drawing criticism from U.S. counterparts who say there is evidence that the drug makes people more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior. John Maxwell of ACT in July said there had not been enough studies of crystal meth use among men who have sex with men to definitively link the drug's use to HIV transmission. As a result, Toronto has not launched any major awareness campaigns about crystal meth use increasing the risk of HIV transmission (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/7). However, the recent alert, published on the ACT Web site, says, "Crystal meth use increases sexual risk-taking among gay and bisexual men," and warns that the drug's physiological effects increase the chance of HIV transmission during intercourse.
ACT Comments, Reaction
ACT spokesperson Tyler Stiem said the group was trying to be cautious in delaying the issuance of a warning. "There was a reluctance to state it really forcefully," he said, adding, "We've been trying very diligently to say that if there's a connection it hasn't been fully fleshed out in studies." However, health experts in the U.S. said the studies are clear and urged Toronto health officials to immediately warn of the risk of HIV transmission associated with crystal meth use. Some well-known members of Toronto's gay community applauded ACT's new message. Toronto Associate Medical Officer of Health Rita Shahin said it is too soon to attribute the city's high HIV infection rate to meth use but added she is "comfortable" with ACT's stance (Toronto Star, 8/18). The number of newly reported HIV cases in Toronto increased by about 50% to 614 in 2002 but dropped slightly to 563 in 2004 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/7).