Officials, Physicians at Conference Explore Link Between Crystal Meth, HIV Infection
State officials, educators, advocates and physicians at the inaugural National Conference on Methamphetamine, HIV and Hepatitis gathered Friday and Saturday in Salt Lake City to discuss the link between methamphetamine use and the spread of HIV/AIDS within Utah and nationwide, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. The event, hosted by the Harm Reduction Project, attracted more than 900 attendees from around the country and focused on promoting drug use prevention and education, as well as safer sex (Westley, Salt Lake City Tribune, 8/21). Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) last week protested HHS' sponsorship of the conference because the organizers promote a "harm reduction" approach to drug policy. Harm reduction programs provide injection drug users with clean needles and syringes or methadone therapy to help reduce the risk of them becoming infected with bloodborne diseases. However, some Republicans view such programs as a cover for those who wish to decriminalize illegal drugs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/16). According to attendees of Friday's sessions, more money and collaborative efforts are needed to address the problem of meth use. Keynote speaker Patricia Case, a Harvard Medical School social scientist and professor, questioned the use of the term "epidemic" but described the current increase in meth use as a widespread problem. "America has always loved stimulants," Case said, adding, "People take stimulants to accomplish things. It's chemical software and plays perfectly to our shared American qualities: the desire to be perfect, work harder, be smarter, be thinner ... and win at all costs" (Stewart, Salt Lake Tribune, 8/20).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.