Colliding Epidemics: The Number of Americans Infected with HIV Has Surpassed 1 Million, Boosted by Skyrocketing Crystal Use among Sexually Active Gay Men-And by Decreasing Mortality from AIDS

Article excerpt

At the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center during the past few years, the staff has become more and more used to gay men who test positive for HIV aider admitting to a crystal meth addiction. "If you had asked any of our counselors, anecdotally, they would have said that 90% of new HIV cases were linked to meth," says Quentin O'Brien, the center's director of health and mental health services. It's not quite that high, but still alarming. In June the center released startling findings: Nearly one in three gay and bi-sexual men who tested positive at the clinic in 2004 admitted to using meth. That rate is nearly three times greater than the proportion of HIV-positive men who admitted using the highly addictive drug in 2001. In addition, more than 10% of all men who have sex with men tested at the center in 2004 said they had used meth, almost double the rate from 2001.

"There's evidence we're still on an upward trend, and it's not abating," O'Brien tells The Advocate. "For gay men it's linked to sexuality. It is so strong that many people who say that once they have sex on crystal, there's no going back. We need to let them know that things that are often appealing have a consequence."

The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center's data was released at a national HIV prevention conference, as was another unsettling piece of news: The number of Americans now living with HIV has passed the 1 million mark.

Officials call that news a mixture of good and bad. On one hand, it means that a greater number of people are living longer on anti-HIV drugs that were not around when the virus ravaged gay men in the 1980s. …