HIV and 'Crystal' in the USA: Gay and Bisexual Men in the USA Are Using the Drug Crystal Methamphetamine to Initiate, Enhance and Prolong Sexual Encounters. Professor Perry Haltikis, Director of the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies at New York University, Explains How 'Crystal' Is Exacerbating the HIV/AIDS Epidemic among This Community

Article excerpt

"Although it has been used recreationally for more than 30 years, crystal has become known as the ultimate sex drug during the past ten years. Like ecstacy, it stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain--a hormone associated with pleasure and happiness--making the user euphoric and hypersexual. Taken with viagra, it allows a man to have sex for prolonged periods.

The use of crystal by gay and bisexual men has increased significantly over the past ten years or so, and there is evidence to suggest that this is leading to increasing numbers of new HIV infections. Men who are HIV+ and using crystal have significant increases in viral replication within their bodies, which means they are more likely to transmit the virus. Of course, the fact that transmission is occurring at all is an indication that gay and bisexual men are taking more risks in their sexual behaviour, and there are all sorts of reasons why. There is a complacency around the disease due to optimism about treatment and generational gaps in knowledge: we have a group of young gay men coming into their adulthood who nave not been exposed to the horrible trauma of seeing people die everywhere, as we saw in the 1980s. At the same time, there is general fatigue and boredom with safe sex. …