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The Single Biggest Risk Factor for Gay, Bi Men Becoming HIV-Positive

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

Researchers ring the alarm on the scourge of "party and play."

Crystal methamphetamine use is the single biggest risk factor in American gay and bisexual men becoming HIV-positive, according to a new study.

Researchers associated with the City University of New York queried nearly 4,800 people — almost entirely queer cisgender men aged 16-49 — in 2017 and 2018, recruiting them from gay dating apps. The participants began the study as HIV-negative and were not on PrEP, the preventative medication that makes it nearly impossible to contract HIV. The study's subjects were initially asked about their meth use, and came in for HIV tests a year after they were first recruited.

The results showed that 14 percent of participants who reported "persistent" meth became HIV-positive over that year, while only 2.5 percent of study participants overall seroconverted, or 115 people. Researchers categorized "persistent" meth use as those who reported using the drug before and throughout the study.

Of all those who became HIV-positive, over a third (36 percent) were persistent meth users. Men aged 36-45 reported the most meth use, and those living in Western states had the highest incidence of the drug. 

Persistent meth use is the biggest factor for seroconversion, researchers stated, followed by Black ethnicity and a syphilis diagnosis.

Researchers detailed the correlation between meth and HIV. 

“Methamphetamine exacerbates HIV risk via increasing sexual libido while simultaneously reducing inhibitions,” the authors stated, according to AIDSMap. “Our findings highlight the need to address methamphetamine use and its associated risks among sexual and gender minorities, the likes of which may also serve to help end the HIV epidemic.”

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Neal Broverman