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Methamphetamine Taking a Toll on Gays

March 26, 2004

At the recent National STD Prevention Conference in Philadelphia, government health experts presented findings indicating that crystal methamphetamine use is contributing to the continuing spike in STDs, including HIV and syphilis, among gay and bisexual men. Studies have shown that crystal meth use leads to greater likelihood of being HIV-positive and having syphilis; users also tend to have more sex partners than nonusers.

Last year, Marc Cohen -- president of the United Foundation for AIDS -- and health and law enforcement officers formed the South Florida Crystal Meth Task Force to track the drug's usage and manufacture in the region. In November, the task force held a workshop in Fort Lauderdale to alert residents to the drug's dangers; it drew more than 500 people. The group will hold a similar event in Miami Beach on April 21.

Cohen started a campaign last year called Meth Equals Death to spread the word. Campaign strategies include logging into popular gay Internet chat rooms, offering support groups for users in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, and maintaining two Web sites that attract people from as far away as Australia. Cohen spends as much as five hours a day chatting online, counseling men to be tested and/or seek drug abuse treatment. Cohen said that after two years of gaining chat room users' trust and counseling them, most have appreciated his efforts.

Crystal costs between $80-$100 per gram in South Florida. "The price of cocaine and meth are similar in terms of quantity," said Jim Hall, executive director of Up Front Drug Information Center in South Miami-Dade, "but meth has longer duration of action. That's part of its appeal."

Back to other news for March 26, 2004

Excerpted from:
Miami Herald
03.22.04; Andrea Robinson

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