Methamphetamine use by New York gay men risks epidemic of resistant HIV warns opinion piece

Michael Carter
Published: 10 March 2004

Use of the recreational drug methamphetamine by gay men is leading to an increase in unsafe sex and many new cases of HIV, warn HIV prevention workers from New York in an opinion piece in Newsweek. The New York prevention workers also warn that as HIV-positive gay men using methamphetamine are more likely to miss doses of their anti-HIV treatment, use of the drug could lead to the transmission of drug-resistant strains of HIV.

The potential implications for methamphetamine use on the HIV epidemic were recently reviewed in detail in an article in Clinical Infectious Diseases (see link to aidsmap news story below). Earlier studies have suggested that the reason why HIV-positive methamphetamine users experience faster HIV disease progression could be that they are less likely to adhere to their treatment regimens.

According to research conducted by the Center for HIV/AIDS Education Studies and Training (CHEST) in New York, gay men in the city who use methamphetamine are 2.9 times more likely to contract HIV through unprotected receptive anal sex than gay men who do not use the drug.

The Newsweek opinion piece warns that “a cascade of disasters is accompanying the rise in …meth use”, adding that HIV-positive users of the drug are neglecting to take doses of their anti-HIV medication and are therefore at risk of transmitting drug-resistant HIV. The combined effects of methamphetamine use and passing on of drug-resistant HIV “may be setting the stage for a far greater epidemiological disaster by creating novel, super-spreading varieties of HIV,” warn the CHEST researchers.

There are only limited data that methamphetamine users are less likely to adhere to their treatments. However, the CHEST workers state in their opinion piece that "[we] must not wait for unequivocal proof showing the association between crystal use and new HIV infections before mounting a decisive and intelligent response." They call on health officials to mount an aggressive response to methamphetamine use by gay men, which is as “creative and compassionate” as its other sexual health education programmes targeted at gay men.

Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.