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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 20, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 16
Report: Meth users more likely to contract HIV
Section One
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Report: Meth users more likely to contract HIV

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor According to a new study headed by Robert Bolan, M.D., medical director of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center since 1996, crystal meth users are more likely to contract HIV than non-users.

'My interests have always been driven by what the problems are that threaten our community,' Bolan told the South Florida Gay News. 'For the past five to 10 years or so, I think that crystal methamphetamine use is a scourge in our community that is helping to fuel the HIV epidemic.'

The study looked at more than 9,000 people. Those who admitted using meth in the preceding year were almost four times as likely to contract HIV, more than four times as likely to contract syphilis, more than twice as likely to contract gonorrhea, and almost twice as likely to contract chlamydia. They were compared with those who hadn't used in the preceding year. Of all the diseases 60% of those newly infected had admitted to using meth in the preceding month.

'Because crystal meth can increase sexual arousal while reducing inhibition and judgment,' the study read, 'its use is associated with high-risk behaviors that increase the likelihood of acquiring a new STD or HIV.'

'The effects of a given dose of [meth] last for hours and this can result in so-called sex marathons where an individual can engage in continuous or repetitive sexual activities with the same or multiple individuals,' Bolan said, adding that the drug also tends to dry out mucous membranes, like the rectum, adding potential to injury. 'All of these things - prolonged intercourse, multiple partners, dried mucous membranes - promote transmission of HIV and STIs. & One effect of [meth] is that it can inhibit erections, but with erectile dysfunction drugs that side effect is no longer a limiting factor.'

According to the South Florida Gay News, the researchers looked at various educational resources and found that all of them are directed at meth users, or at trying to persuade people not to start. This study attacks from a different angle.

'Our message is not that 'if you have sex with someone who uses [meth], you will become infected with something,' Bolan said, adding that his study in no way suggests that having unprotected sex with a non-user is a definite shield against STIs. 'Our message aims at a more real world way that Gay men appear to be looking at sexual partner choices. We just want everyone to think about this a bit differently. & My intent is to arm Gay men with real statistics that can help them make informed sexual choices.'

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