Young gay meth users more likely to be exposed to HIV

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Young gay and bisexual men who use methamphetamine are more likely to be exposed to HIV, research suggests.

Most studies on the issue focus on older gay men, but the latest research suggests a link between use of the drug and risky sexual behaviour which can lead to HIV infection.

Researchers at the Northwestern University in Chicago looked at data collected in 2005 and 2006 on 595 gay and bisexual men aged between 12 and 24 in eight US cities.

The 64 who said they had used methamphetamine in the last three months were substantially more likely to have been involved in risky sexual behaviour.

They were less likely to have used condoms (33 per cent vs 54 per cent); more likely to have had sex with two or more partners in the last 90 days (83 per cent vs 63 per cent); more likely to have had sex with an HIV-positive person (33 per cent vs 11 per cent); and more likely to have had an sexually-transmitted infection (52 per cent vs 21 per cent).

Speaking to Reuters, Dr Robert Garofalo of Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago called the issue a “real public health crisis” and called for proven HIV prevention programmes targeted towards young men.

Methamphetamine, commonly called crystal meth, is a stimulant that can increase alertness, energy and libido. It is also said to decrease inhibitions, which may lead to risky sexual behaviour.

Approximately 43 per cent of gay and bisexual men have used the drug, US studies say.