Sharon M. Hudson, PhD and John Copeland. Health Research Association, 1111 N. Las Palmas Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90038, 323-957-4147, firstname.lastname@example.org
Background: Research shows high rates of risky sex among young men who have sex with men (YMSM), indicating high risk for HIV. Substance use exacerbates this, particularly crystal methamphetamine ("crystal").
Methods: Data are formative research for an intervention to reduce or prevent YSMS's crystal use. Seventeen 18- to 24-year-old men were recruited from a youth pride festival in Los Angeles. Semi-structured interviews assessed use of crystal and other drugs, reasons for using/not using, initiation, norms around use, quitting, and other issues.
Results: Mean (median) age was 21 (23) years. Eight Latinos, 7 African Americans, 1 mixed race and 1 White participated. One was HIV-positive. Virtually all, including 4 non-crystal users, reported a history of other substance use. Reasons for using crystal included improving sex, forgetting problems/escaping reality and staying awake or alert. The most common “downside” was physical/emotional pain of coming off crystal. None spontaneously mentioned HIV as a risk of use. Non-users tended to say crystal is no worse than other drugs, including marijuana. Almost all participants said users keep their crystal use secret from non-users. All users (n=13) had tried to quit or reduce; none entered drug treatment. Family and friends were influential in initiation and quitting.
Conclusions: HIV counseling should link crystal use and HIV risk and highlight the drug's dangers. Service providers should assess YMSM's mental health, making appropriate referrals to stem the use of crystal as self-medication. YMSM-tailored drug treatment may be necessary. Interventions to increase social support for quitting or remaining abstinent are important.
Keywords: Drug Abuse, Gay Men
Presenting author's disclosure statement:
The 134th Annual Meeting & Exposition (November 4-8, 2006) of APHA