Crystal Meth Use High Among Gay Men in the Southeast

August 27, 2007

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Even in the rural southeast, a high proportion of gay men are using crystal methamphetamine, a drug that promotes risky sexual behavior, researchers said.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., Aug. 27 -- Even in the rural southeast, a high proportion of gay men are using crystal methamphetamine, a drug that promotes risky sexual behavior, researchers said.

But a study of 1,189 gay men in North Carolina reveals some surprising facts about the crystal meth users among them - including a generally higher level of education - as well as a cautionary tale about combining drugs and sex, according to Scott Rhodes, Ph.D., of Wake Forest Baptist School of Medicine, here, and colleagues.

The study, reported in the August issue of AIDS Patient Care and STDs and conducted through interviews online and face-to-face at gay bars, showed that 6% of the participants had used the drug within the past 30 days.

While that's lower than observed among gay men in urban centers, the researchers noted, it's sharply higher than the 0.2% of the general population who use the drug.

The researchers also found that participants who reported using the drug were more likely to report being HIV-positive, having a history of STDs, being inconsistent condom users during anal sex within the previous three months, and using medications designed to treat erectile dysfunction.

"Until now, there has been little data on meth use in the southeast," Dr. Rhodes said. "Our findings, including that meth users were more likely to be HIV-positive, suggest that prevention, intervention and treatment efforts are urgently needed."

The researchers interviewed 741 men in five gay bars in 2005, and combined the results of that survey with answers from 448 who completed an assessment online.

The participants were ethnically diverse, with 34.5% identifying themselves as black or African American, 32.1% as white, 24.6% as Hispanic or Latino, and smaller percentages as Hawaiian, Indian, or Asian. The average age was 29.12.

Nearly half of the participants said they had only a high school education or less, while 23.9% said they had a college degree or higher. One fifth reported an annual income of less than ,000 per year and 24.4% reported ,000 or more.

But a multivariate analysis comparing the meth users to the majority showed that they were:

  • Four times as likely to be HIV-positive. (The odds ratio was 4.1, with a 95% confidence interval from 1.4 to 11.9, which was significant at P=0.009.)
  • Four times as likely to have better than a high school education. (The odds ratio was 4.2, with a 95% confidence interval from 3.1 to 6.1, which was significant at P

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