Cash needed to stem crystal use
Local health researchers want funding to further investigate club drug use after a study found newly HIV positive young gay men were more likely to be methamphetamine users.
But the calls came with a warning that the new infections could not be blamed on one drug.
The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill study exhibited at the International AIDS Society conference this week also found associations between club drug use, anonymous sex and gay men under age 25.
The region-specific study received little focus from delegates until Professor David Cooper from the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research suggested similar patterns could be happening among Australia’s growing number of methamphetamine users.
ACON CEO Stevie Clayton said it was already known that 20 percent of gay men in Sydney had reported methamphetamine use in the last 12 months, which increased to 32 percent among those who were HIV positive.
We still need better research when it comes to the complex issues around crystal use and HIV, so we can design better programs, Clayton said.
She said governments needed to lead the issue with funding. But there are drug response programs we could develop now if our governments would just recognise the higher rates of drug and alcohol in the gay and lesbian community that need culturally specific responses, Clayton said.
National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre Associate Professor Louisa Degenhardt warned there were many factors behind drug use and risky sexual practices in the gay community.
When we see an association the temptation is to immediately say one causes the other, but we need to know a lot more about those other factors before we start making strong statements about crystal use, Degenhardt said.
It seems that many use it to facilitate taking risks that they wish to take.
Degenhardt said more understanding into the motivations behind taking those risks was needed if the aim of any program was to change behaviour. She also questioned whether people still see these behaviours as having a risk.
Even though there’s a lot of debate in the community around crystal use and sex risk, there has been a lag in funding for more detailed research into the reasons for these associations, she said.
With the drug relatively new to the public consciousness, Degenhardt said the federal Government was slow to catch up to community expectations.
Traditionally the focus of government has been on heroin because it was doing by far the greater amount of harm, she said.
Degenhardt said the availability of methamphetamine over the last decade had increased sharply, but its use was still far behind the most common illicit drugs.