California: Crystal Meth Use Drops Among Gay Men
November 4, 2005
Data from the Stop AIDS Project (SAP) surveys show the number of men who reported crystal meth use dropped 8 percent between the last half of 2003 and the first six months of 2005. In 2003, 18 percent of the 1,305 men surveyed said they had used crystal in the last six months. By 2005, only 10 percent of the 809 men surveyed reported using the drug.
"This is pretty significant," said Willi McFarland, an epidemiologist with the city health department. "It is the first time we have seen this downward trend. It is a good indicator and could be -- I am hopeful it is -- part of why our HIV rate is changing."
Others are skeptical. "I don't think the drop in crystal relates to the drop in HIV rates," said H. Fisher Raymond, assistant director of the HIV/AIDS statistics and epidemiology section in the AIDS office. "This drop of use in crystal looks like it is happening very recently in time. It doesn't fit well with the trends in new infections," he said. "Down the road we may see a drop in HIV infections and crystal use both going down, then I would be more likely to say it is related."
Christopher Carrington, an assistant professor of sociology at San Francisco State University who studies gay men and their party habits, questioned whether men are really using less crystal or if they are more reluctant to admit its use now that the drug as been stigmatized in media efforts like the city's "Crystal Mess" campaign.
SAP Program Director Mark Utterback said the group has a long history of making men feel comfortable when reporting their behavior to outreach workers. Though he is thrilled to see the drop, "crystal use is still a very serious problem for our community."
Bay Area Reporter (San Francisco)
11.03.2005; Matthew S. Bajko