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Gay Leaders Working to Combat Crystal Meth Use Among Men Who Have Sex With Men

April 5, 2005

Gay leaders nationwide "bluntly acknowledge that their communities have distinctive problems" with crystal methamphetamine use, including the drug's link to the spread of HIV/AIDS, and that they have "an unavoidable responsibility to combat" its use, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. Crystal meth -- which can be snorted, smoked or injected -- is a popular "party drug" that breaks down inhibitions, raises energy levels and increase sexual activity, therefore raising the risk of HIV transmission, according to the AP/Sun. Awareness of crystal meth use "intensified" in February when New York City public health officials announced the detection of a highly drug-resistant strain of HIV in a New York City man, according to the AP/Sun (Crary, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 4/4). New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene officials said the strain possibly causes a rapid onset of AIDS and issued an alert to physicians, hospitals and medical providers, asking them to test all HIV-positive patients for evidence of the strain. The man was reported to have had frequent, unprotected anal intercourse with other men, often while using crystal meth (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/14).

Fighting Back
Crystal Meth Anonymous, a 12-step recovery program modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous that began in New York in 1999, offers 24 meetings a week, sometimes drawing more than 100 people to a meeting, according to the AP/Sun. Other programs use a "harm-reduction" approach to counseling, in which users are cautioned about meth's risks and encouraged to avoid overdoses, take care of their health and engage in safer sex even when using the drug, the AP/Sun reports. Peter Staley, a former meth user who now is an HIV advocate, has circulated posters with the slogans, "Buy Crystal. Get HIV Free" and "Crystal Free and Sexy." Stanley also is targeting MSM Web sites. He said some sites still display personal ads hinting at "sex-and-meth" parties, even though others display health messages, according to the AP/Sun. West Hollywood, Calif., Mayor John Duran (D) said he has discussed anti-meth strategies with people in the "gay sex industry," including pornographic filmmakers and sex club operators, the AP/Sun reports. "We didn't come through the AIDS epidemic and the battles over gays in the military and gay marriage to end up here, a community filled with drug addicts," Duran said, adding, "We've fought too long and too hard to let this drug take us down" (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 4/4).

Clubs Train Workers on Crystal Meth Education
The Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday examined how Chicago-area bars and gay clubs are working with police and the Howard Brown Health Center to train bartenders about how to educate customers about the risks of crystal meth use (Donovan/Sweeney, Chicago Sun-Times, 4/4). The complete article is available online.

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