San Francisco: Dance of Death -- Crystal Meth Fuels HIV

A San Francisco Health Department study last year found that, in one high-risk clinic, 25 percent to 30 percent of those with new HIV infections reported crystal methamphetamine use in the previous six months. At a meeting about crystal meth in Sacramento last month, the state's top HIV/AIDS prevention officials said that gay men who use speed are twice as likely to be HIV-positive as those who do not. "The crystal meth epidemic is playing an important role in increasing sexual risk behaviors, and that is leading to new HIV and STD infections," said Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, the city's director of STD control and prevention.

Of gay and bisexual men testing positive for syphilis, 25 percent reported recent speed use, said Klausner. HIV-negative gays who used meth were three times more likely to have rectal gonorrhea than nonusers. Men on speed say that meth tends to make them "instant bottoms" -- the receptive position in anal sex -- because the drug induces temporary erectile dysfunction.

A statewide study found that among 63,098 gay and bisexual men tested in 2001 and 2002 at public clinics, 7.1 percent of meth users were HIV-positive, compared to 3.7 percent for nonusers. And 10.5 percent of the men reported meth use. Officials found that 39.2 percent of gay non-users "always" use a condom for anal receptive intercourse, compared to 24.6 percent of meth users.

An SFDH study, published in February, of gay and bisexual men who frequented late-night dance clubs, parks after hours, sex clubs, and adult bookstores found the incidence of recreational drug use extremely high:

  • More than three-fourths of the 350 men surveyed reported non-injection drug use. Half said they had tried methamphetamine in the previous three months.

  • Three-quarters said they had had unprotected anal intercourse in the same time period.

  • Nearly one-third said they already had HIV or tested positive for the first time, indicating they possibly had transmitted HIV to casual sex partners while using drugs.

A San Francisco City Hall discussion about crystal meth and HIV will be held 6-8 p.m. Wednesday in room 263 and broadcast live on public access cable channel 26.

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