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Meth & AIDS
Oct 13, 2006

It seems there is an amazing rise in the amount of new AIDS cases and a correlation to crystal meth. I see advertisements everywhere warning of the dangers of crystal meth use and its "link" to AIDS and HIV. I've read many stories of people who had safe sex but are heavy "non-injecting" crystal users coming up with AIDS.

Is it possible that being a meth addict, not eating and so on could bring about AIDS? I've heard much talk about the fact that hard drugs can break down the immunity system and usher in alot of disease. Is it possible that the is a direct connection to drug use and AIDS?

One more quick one if you will. I know two very good friends of mine have/had AIDS. The odd thing- Both tested HIV- repeatedly. One has since died and the other is alive healthy and still HIV-. How could this be?

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

"Is it possible being a meth addict, not eating and so on could bring about AIDS?" No. The only way to have AIDS is to acquire the HIV virus. Certainly being a tweeker can completely ruin your health in many ways. It is true that crystal meth users are at least three times as likely as nonusers to be HIV positive. However, this relationship is the direct consequence of the frequency of unsafe sex activity in meth users. That's the link. Use of crystal meth decreases inhibitions and increases unsafe sexual activity. Increased unsafe sex leads directly to an increased incidence of HIV.

Regarding your second question, it is impossible to have AIDS and be HIV negative by definition. Simply put, if your buddies are HIV negative, they do not have AIDS. No way. No how.

Dr. Bob

Meth and HIV

Jun 27, 2006

Dr. Bob,

I'm a grateful, recovering Crystal Meth Addict. I have just passed my 8 month mark of being clean. At my partner's prompting, he suggested I use my gift of voice somehow. I have decided and am in the process of making a documentary of my addiction and my recovery. I asked my Infectious Disease Specialist if he would let me interview him specifically on how Meth has affected my health only. I was always very honest with him about my injecting meth and we would often discuss what meth was doing to my health. 2 years ago when I tested Positive my CD4 was 914, VL was 4000. CD4 is now 241, VL 72000. I have started HIV Meds on my 2 year anniversary of being Positive. My doctor said he would not be part of my film since he can not prove meth had any connection to the degeneration of my health. I have read the research and understand the effects meth has on one's body so I know he is full of you know what. So, for others who may not understand meth's affects; Dr. Bob, what effects does meth have on a Positive person's health and if there are affects, what are they? I respect your words tremendously. Former Meth Man in FL

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Former Meth Man,

Congratulations on your eight months of sobriety!

Regarding meth effects on HIV pozatoids, I'll reprint an article from the archives that addresses that issue.

Stay well! Good luck with your film!

Dr. Bob

Scientists Explore Meth's Role in Immune System

February 25, 2005

Crystal methamphetamine's effect on the immune system, HIV's progression and the overall AIDS epidemic is receiving fresh scrutiny after New York City health officials reported that a meth-using resident acquired multiple drug-resistant HIV and quickly progressed to AIDS. Experts fear more people, especially gay men, are using the drug -- in many cases, with Viagra -- to engage in unprotected sex with multiple partners.

In the Explore Project -- a long-term study of more than 4,000 gay men sexually active with more than one partner -- researchers found a quarter of the men had tried crystal methamphetamine in the previous six months. All the meth users were HIV-negative at the study's start, but by the end, about 2.1 percent had seroconverted. Independent of behaviors such as unprotected sex with multiple partners -- which was strongly associated with infection -- and injection drug use, men reporting crystal use were twice as likely to contract HIV.

While research is limited, studies in animals and on cell cultures have found that methamphetamine suppresses killer T cells. That, combined with the drug's propensity to dry out mucous membranes, could cause abrasions in the mouth and rectum and slightly increase a person's vulnerability to the virus, said Dr. Antonio Urbina, lead author of a study on crystal meth and HIV published last year in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

In a Journal of Infectious Diseases study of 230 HIV-positive people, two-thirds were either current or former crystal users. Those on antiretroviral medication who used crystal had much higher viral loads than other subjects. One explanation is that meth users, like many drug users, failed to adhere to their drug regimens, said Dr. Igor Grant, a study author. Such irregular adherence can also allow drug-resistant HIV to emerge, according to experts. Nevertheless, it is meth's role on behavior that most alarms experts. "Being in a sex club for 36 hours on crystal meth and engaging in unprotected anal sex is really the most profound effect," said Dr. Steve Shoptaw, a research psychologist at University of California-Los Angeles' Integrated Substance Abuse programs.

The studies cited include "Crystal Methamphetamine, Its Analogues, and HIV Infection: Medical and Psychiatric Aspects of a New Epidemic," published in Journal of Infectious Diseases (2004;38:890-894) and "Increased Human Immunodeficiency Virus Loads in Active Methamphetamine Users Are Explained by Reduced Effectiveness of Antiretroviral Therapy," published in Journal of Infectious Diseases (2003;188:1820-1826).

Study Confirms Role of Meth in HIV

August 16, 2005

The results of a new study confirm that crystal methamphetamine use has emerged as the newest risk factor in the U.S. HIV epidemic. People who use crystal methamphetamine are at least three times more likely to be HIV-infected than nonusers, according to research conducted jointly by the University of California-San Francisco AIDS Health Project (UCSF-AHP), CDC, and the San Francisco Department of Public Health. The drug lowers inhibitions and encourages riskier sexual behavior with multiple partners -- key risks for HIV infection.

The study involved 3,000 San Franciscans who took anonymous HIV tests in 2000 and 2001. Of 300 people in the study who reported using crystal meth, 6 percent were recently infected with HIV. Among people who used the drug during sexual encounters, the infection rate was close to 8 percent. Among people who did not use crystal meth, in contrast, just 2 percent had newly acquired HIV infections.

It is essential to combine drug treatment and prevention programs with STD control efforts, said Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, San Francisco's director of STD control and senior study author. "It is important to address crystal use to control those epidemics."

"It is a complicated problem requiring a carefully planned response" involving doctors, public health officials, policymakers, and community members, said James Dilley, director of UCSF-AHP.

The report, "Amphetamine Use Is Associated with Increased HIV Incidence Among Men Who Have Sex with Men in San Francisco," was published in AIDS (2005;19(13):1423-1424).



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