Crystal meth is a highly addictive, illicit substance contributing to the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases in a few ways. Methamphetamine use is particularly problematic in the community of gay men, the issue that will be prominently discussed below.

Injecting Meth And HIV/AIDS

Although meth is commonly smoked, snorted or swallowed, some users do inject it to achieve a faster high. In this case, the concern is the method of administration. Intravenous injection can contribute to the spread of HIV if a user runs out of clean needles and borrows a used needle from another person.

Crystal Meth And Decreased Inhibitions

Many substances, including meth and alcohol, can decrease a person's inhibitions and make them more likely to engage in behaviors they normally would not. People who use meth may be more apt to have unprotected sex with multiple partners or even strangers, increasing their risk for contracting HIV/AIDS and other conditions.

Methamphetamine And The Gay Community

Meth use has become part of homosexual culture in some areas of the country. But what is it about this drug—which can cause many physical problems—that makes it so attractive to this community? And what is its relationship to the HIV epidemic that has been attributed to its presence among homosexuals?

Why Gay Men Abuse Meth:

  • The high: Anyone who repeatedly uses meth does so because it produces a pleasurable high.
  • Weight loss: Among the many side effects of crystal meth use is a decreased appetite that can lead to weight loss. In a community where appearance is so important, this aspect increases the temptation to abuse this drug.
  • Confidence: Whether it is the good feeling that comes with the high or the ways meth alters a person's self-perception, the drug can make a user feel confident and strong, an attractive quality to potential sexual partners.
  • Better sex: As will be discussed further in the next section, meth users—especially gay men—report that libido goes up, sex lasts longer and sex feels better while they are taking meth.

Why Meth Abuse Is Problematic For The Spread And Treatment Of HIV/AIDS

Although most people would have similarly decreased inhibitions with meth, because its use has become an integral part of the spread of HIV, this discussion considers it a phenomenon within the gay community.

The first issue is that meth abuse often makes gay men—both those who are infected and uninfected—somewhat careless when it comes to sex. The feeling of invincibility that one may have while on meth makes a person perceive condoms as a unnecessary hassle. Increased desire combined with decreased inhibitions, makes gay men more impulsive; more willing to act on instinct, rather than consider long-term consequences for themselves and potential partners.

The second issue is that methamphetamine use can make people forgetful or simply detached from reality when feeling so good. Men infected with HIV may forget to take their medications while high on meth, ultimately making themselves feel worse. HIV-infected men may also believe they can continue to have sex with other infected men, but this will exacerbate the condition if each person is carrying a different strain (i.e., a “superinfection").

Bottom Line: Meth Is Critically Dangerous To Health

Meth use is associated with numerous physical, mental, financial and other life problems for those who abuse it. If someone you know is abusing meth, try to talk to them about the possibility of serious health consequences if the abuse continues.