Australia: Viagra, Ice Linked to HIV
September 17, 2008
Gay men in Australia who take the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra or stimulants like ice (crystal methamphetamine) to enhance sexual pleasure are at greater risk of acquiring HIV, according to a study presented today at the Australasian Sexual Health Conference 2008. However, the drugs are not to blame; rather, the men taking them are more likely to engage in risky behavior, researchers reported.
The Australian study mirrors US research showing that an increasing number of men who acquire HIV are taking substances. The new findings were based on a four-year study of 1,427 HIV-negative gay men.
"The drugs that were independently associated with seroconversion are the drugs that enhance sexual pleasure like amyl nitrate [poppers], crystal [methamphetamine], and Viagra," said Dr. Garrett Prestage of Sydney's National Center in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research.
"It's not about men getting out of it and screwing up, making mistakes, as everyone seems to think," Prestage said. "It's not because they take drugs that they become infected. It's because these men are into taking risks in general, whether it be with sex or with drugs."
Prestage said the findings show HIV risk is not generalized in the gay community but limited to a smaller group of risk-takers. In Australia, the main growth of HIV infections is among gay men participating in risky sex in some cities, including in Brisbane and Victoria.
"We need to be targeting our messages to the men who play in more sexually adventurous scenes where risks with both drugs and sex are common," Prestage said.
Australian Associated Press
09.17.2008; Tamara McLean