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AIDS Educ Prev. 2008 Feb;20(1):42-55. doi: 10.1521/aeap.2008.20.1.42.

In the shadows of a prevention campaign: sexual risk behavior in the absence of crystal methamphetamine.

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  • 1Center for HIV/AIDS Educational Studies and Training, New York, the National Development and Research Institutes, Inc., New York, USA.


Because of its ability to reduce inhibitions and increase sexual drive, an emerging body of research has repeatedly identified crystal methamphetamine as a key variable in explaining new HIV transmissions among men who have sex with men (MSM). The implications of which have included the development of HIV prevention policies and public health campaigns centered on curbing methamphetamine use in urban gay centers throughout the United States. Data collected from a diverse sample of gay and bisexual men attending large-scale gay, lesbian, and bisexual community events in New York City (n=738) indicated that 10.2% of men used methamphetamine recently (i.e., <90 days) and that 29.9% of the sample had experienced a recent episode of unprotected anal intercourse. The majority, 81.1%, of those men reporting unsafe sex had not used methamphetamine recently. This analysis identified a bivariate relationship between methamphetamine use and sexual risk, but also highlights other variables that were significantly related to risky sexual behavior. Logistic regression analyses indicated that recent GHB use, temptation for unsafe sex, being younger in age, and identification as a barebacker were better indicators of risky sexual behavior than methamphetamine use. Policies focused on methamphetamine prevention may help to curb risky sexual behavior among select groups of individuals; however, these will not adequately address the sexual health of the many gay and bisexual men who, in the shadows of anti-methamphetamine policies and prevention programs, continue to engage in unsafe sex but are nonusers of methamphetamine.

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