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Local and Community News

San Francisco: Ph.D. Takes Fall to Addiction

May 6, 2003

Isaac, 47, sleeps in his closet in a corner carved out from the dirty clothing in his Tenderloin apartment in San Francisco. He is addicted to crystal methamphetamine and a long way from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which awarded him a dual doctoral degree in architecture and media arts and sciences a decade ago. When not too depressed, he logs on to the Internet and arranges to meet a sex partner to "party and play" -- all faster than he can get his takeout delivered.

Health officials in San Francisco and large urban areas across the country say cases like Issac's are increasing -- gay and bisexual men who become addicted to meth and mix the drug with risky sex. Experts say the combination is raising HIV infection rates.

Isaac began using speed in 1994 after both his parents died, his lover kicked him out, and his remaining family members rejected him after he told them he was gay.

Isaac said he has managed to stay HIV-negative by not allowing other men to penetrate him during sex. He has, however, put himself at risk by penetrating others without using a condom. He lives on welfare payments of $395 a month -- spending $80 to $100 of that on speed -- and $129 in food stamps. Sometimes he gets free speed in exchange for sex.

Isaac and a typical casual partner will share hits of crystal from a glass pipe, and, with the adrenaline coursing, engage in sex sessions lasting up to 12 hours. Often, they are joined by one or more men, frequently eschewing condoms.

Despite sometimes attending meetings at Stonewall Project, a speed recovery program for gay men at University of California-San Francisco, Isaac continues to smoke crystal. "I feel like the last 10 years of my life have been a waste of time. I live in a dump. I have no money. All I have are my cat and my computer," he said.

Back to other CDC news for May 6, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
San Francisco Chronicle
05.05.03; Christopher Heredia

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Ask Our Expert, David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., About Substance Use and HIV
More on Gay Men, Substance Abuse and HIV/AIDS