'Meth' Abuse Ups Risk of HIV Infection in Young Gay Men

Study found high rates of drug use among this group, and much more risky sexual behaviors

MONDAY, Aug. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Methamphetamine abuse by young adult gay and bisexual males raises their risk of HIV exposure and infection, a new study finds.

Prior research has suggested that up to 43 percent of gay or bisexual males age 18 or older have used methamphetamine, which increases the likelihood of sexual behaviors that boost their risk of HIV exposure and infection. However, most research focuses on older gay or bisexual men and little is known about meth use and sexual behavior among younger males, according to the researchers.

For this study, researchers led by Peter Freeman of Northwestern University in Chicago looked at data collected between January 2005 and August 2006 from 595 gay or bisexual men aged 12 to 24 living in eight U.S. cities. Of those males, 64 reported methamphetamine use within the previous 90 days.

Compared to those who had not used hard drugs, the participants who said they used methamphetamine were more likely to have a history of sexually transmitted diseases (about 52 percent vs. 21 percent), two or more sex partners in the past 90 days (about 86 percent vs. 63 percent), sex with an injection drug user (51.5 percent vs. about 11 percent), and sex with someone infected with HIV (about 33 percent vs. 11 percent).

Methamphetamine users were also less likely to use condoms during every sexual encounter: 33 percent vs. 54 percent.

"The findings of our study suggest that there is a need to develop substance abuse prevention and treatment programs as part of HIV prevention" for this group, Freeman and colleagues wrote.

The study appears in the August issue of the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about methamphetamine.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Aug. 1, 2011

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