For Young Gays, Meth Use Comes With a High Risk of Contracting HIV
August 27, 2010
Seattle-area organizations are offering help to gay crystal methamphetamine users, who have a higher risk of HIV infection, according to local studies. In King County, about 10 percent of men who have sex with men have used crystal meth in a given year, Public Health-Seattle & King County reports, and usage is twice as high among MSM under age 30.
"Every time I test a meth user I feel afraid for them in the pit of my stomach," said Joshua O'Neal, who researches HIV testing at the public STD Clinic at Harborview Medical Center. "Three-quarters of all meth users I test come in and test positive. When you feel invincible, you don't care about using a condom."
"While meth affects everyone because it is so highly addictive, it's a particular problem for those in the LGBTQ community," said Arnold Martin of Project NEON, which focuses on harm reduction.
Motives for meth users range from seeking a euphoric high, boosting libido and self-confidence, to masking feelings of shame and stigma over sexual orientation. Other users said they used the drug only after being diagnosed with HIV in order to stifle hopelessness, gain energy, and forget about HIV during sex.
"Gay men use meth for the same reasons that we use any other drug; it kills the pain," said Tony Radovich, cofounder of Strength Over Speed, a peer-based meth recovery support group.
"Being gay and growing up feeling different, drugs were a good fit for me," said Jordon Duran, a former meth user who works for Gay City Health Project, a community-based HIV prevention program. "But I believe in people's ability to change."
For more information about Strength Over Speed, visit: www.strengthoverspeed.org. For information about events and meetings through SHIFT, a peer-recovery network, visit: www.shiftrecovery.org. For online information about Crystal Meth Anonymous, visit: www.crystalmeth.org. For information on Project NEON, a Seattle Counseling Services program, visit www.projectneon.org or telephone 206-323-1768.
08.26.2010; Cassandra Brooks
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.
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