A new Australian study draws a possible link between methamphetamine use and rising HIV infection rates among gay men.
According to a report by Tammy Mills at The Age, the study was conducted by the Prahran Market Clinic in Melbourne and surveyed 211 of its gay male patients from 2011 to 2013. Sixty-five of the sample had HIV and 143 did not. Of those 65, 84 percent who had used meth in the past month believed their drug use contributed to their HIV-positive diagnosis.
The clinic director, Dr. Beng Eu, told The Age he was prompted to conduct the research after doctors at his clinic began seeing new HIV patients that were also meth users.
The study is fairly small and not necessarily indicative of a larger population. However, Dr. Eu believes his study shows that more research must be done on the link between meth use and HIV rates, which are at a 20-year-high in Australia.
In addition to increased HIV infection rates, incidences of syphilis and deaths caused by hepatitis C have also gone up, which Dr. Eu speculated could be linked to a larger problem of risky sexual behavior due to meth use, though no studies have been conducted yet.
Meth use causes a person to become uninhibited, and leaves them vulnerable to taking greater risks like having condomless sex. Dr. Eu recommended that Australian clinics managing men who have sex with men should also screen for high risk behaviors like meth use and offer counseling on reducing those risks.