Use Adds to Ravages of AIDS
THE Chicago Tribune
BY Judith Graham; Johnathon Briggs
MARCH 13, 2005
The growing popularity of crystal methamphetamine in Chicago's gay community has AIDS advocates worried that long-standing efforts to fight the spread of STDs, including HIV, could suffer a significant setback. "It's the biggest challenge we've faced in two decades," said AIDS Foundation of Chicago Executive Director Mark Ishaug.
"When men with HIV take meth, they're not taking [AIDS] medications as prescribed. and [are] transmitting the virus to others who are not infected," said Dr. Dan Berger, medical director at North Star Health Care, Chicago's largest private HIV treatment center.
That danger was highlighted last month when New York City health authorities reported the case of a meth-using gay man with a rare, virulent, and highly drug-resistant strain of HIV who had unprotected sex with more than 100 partners.
"We are very concerned," said Ron Stall, chief of prevention research for HIV/AIDS at CDC. In January, CDC held its first national forum on meth abuse and HIV. CDC is also testing an intervention to reduce high-risk sex among meth users in four cities, including Chicago.
According to Berkeley, Calif.-based psychologist Walter Odets, meth "is a drug that can make men who feel socially awkward or unattractive believe they're in the swing of things." "It's a terrific self-esteem enhancer" for a largely depressed gay community "living in the midst of a deadly epidemic and a society that's still, for the most part, unapproving," said Odets.
Chicago-area AIDS and gay groups are now forming coalitions to respond to the crisis. "It's time to get the word out: We all need to focus attention on how to stop the use of this drug," said Robbin Burr, executive director at the Center on Halsted, a gay and lesbian community center.
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