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NYC Health Department's Anti-Crystal Campaign
  Gay City News
Duncan Osborne
On April 20, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, commissioner of the NewYork City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, announced thatthe city will spend $300,000 to fund an anti-crystal metheducation campaign and to produce a one-day conference in June toeducate health-care providers about the drug. Brett Larson,director of the city's Office of Gay and Lesbian Health, said thecampaign should be active by early summer.
Several West Coast studies have tied crystal use to higherrates of STDs and HIV among gay men. In New York City, six studiesfrom the Center for HIV-AIDS Educational Studies and Training havetied meth use among gay men to unsafe sex. At present, the cityhealth department has only anecdotal evidence of such a link. Thedepartment has begun asking people about their use of crystal andother drugs when they get an HIV test in city STD clinics. "Weknow it's a problem from what patients are telling us who have hadrecent unprotected sex," Frieden said.
Frieden said crystal's harm is evident from city methoverdose reports, which have grown from none three years ago tomore than two dozen in each of the past two years. Further, "Amongpeople who are already HIV-infected, crystal also increases risk.It reduces the likelihood that people will take medications... Ithas some dangerous interactions with HIV medications. It mayincrease HIV viral activity. It accelerates HIV dementia and otherhealth problems related to HIV," Frieden said.
"We've involved the police department in our crystal methtask force," Frieden said, but he noted he is not advocating thatthe police arrest users, only dealers.
Activists who have been pressuring AIDS groups and the cityto respond to crystal use among gay men voiced approval of thecity's action.
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