Pubdate: Tue, 24 Jul 2007
Source: Herald Sun (Australia)
Copyright: 2007 Herald and Weekly Times
Author: Tamara McLean
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


HIV is on the rise among young gay men caught up with dangerous party 
drugs and the risky sex scene that goes with it, research has confirmed.

A US survey of young men newly-diagnosed with HIV shows that an 
increasing number are using methamphetamines like the dangerous 
stimulant ice, the International AIDS Society (IAS) conference in 
Sydney has been told.

Between 2000 and 2005, the number of HIV-positive American men under 
30 who also took club drugs rose from 1.7 to five per cent.

The study is one of the first in the world to strongly link 
methamphetamines and HIV infection - a trend that leading Australian 
HIV researcher Professor David Cooper believes could be fuelling the 
resurgence of the virus here.

Australia's infection rates have almost doubled in the last seven 
years and new figures also show an increasing number - now one in 
eight young Australians - have had speed or the more potent ice in 
the past year.

Australia only has anecdotal evidence of the link but this new study, 
from interviews conducted in the south-eastern US states, shows a clear trend.

Lead researcher Dr Christopher Hurt said while it could not confirm 
that club drugs directly caused the infection, there were definite 
increasing trends over time that couldn't be overlooked.

Linked to their club drug use, these HIV-positive men were also 
increasingly reporting that they met sex partners in clubs and had 
sex in clubs or arranged sex with anonymous partners over the internet.

Dr Hurt said previous studies had already shown that gay 
methamphetamine users were more at risk of HIV infection.

"The libido is stimulated on methamphetamine and we also know that if 
you stay awake for hours and hours and hours you're more likely to 
have marathon sessions of sex," he said.

"And more sex equals more risk for this group."

The sex itself is also more dangerous because the drugs blunt any pain.

He said people who had unprotected anal intercourse may not know they 
had been damaged so the risk of transmission was increased in that way.

"And many men place the drugs inter-rectally which can also cause 
tears inside and make it even more risky," he said.

The research confirmed that gay sex and club drugs were a dangerous 
combination that has the potential spread HIV "like wildfire", he said.

"Gay men were already at risk and now they're becoming even more 
vulnerable," Dr Hurt said.

Prof Cooper, co-convener of the conference and director of the 
National Centre for HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, said the 
trend was alarming.

"The effect of methamphetamine on behaviour is disastrous for the gay 
population," he said. "And I fear that young straight Australians 
experimenting are also more at risk."
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