Few are surprised by a new study that confirms that the use of methamphetamine by adolescent boys and young men who have sex with men (MSM) is associated with them having risky sex.

The use of methamphetamine – also known as crystal meth, crystal or tik – is said to have an estimated prevalence of 43 percent among adult MSM in the United States.

However, the study, published in the August issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, is one of the first to focus on young MSM in the US.

“Research focuses on older MSM, and little is known about methamphetamine use and sexual behaviour among younger MSM (YMSM),” said the study’s authors.

Peter Freeman, from Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, and his colleagues assessed data from studies of 595 adolescent boys and young men ages 12 years to 24 years – all of whom reported having sex with men.

Of the 595 participants, 64 reported they had used methamphetamines in the last 90 days.

They were more likely than those who had not used hard drugs to have a history of sexually transmitted diseases (51.6 percent vs. 21.1 percent), two or more sex partners in the past 90 days (85.7 percent vs. 63.1 percent), sex with an injection drug user (51.6 percent vs. 10.7 percent) and sex with someone who has HIV (32.8 percent vs. 11.1 percent).

These participants were also less likely to use condoms during every sexual encounter; 33.3 percent compared to 54.3 percent.

“Adolescent boys and young men who have sex with men and use methamphetamine seem to be at high risk for human immunodeficiency virus,” concluded the authors.

“The findings of our study suggest that there is a need to develop substance abuse prevention and treatment programs as part of HIV prevention for YMSM.”

They added, “To be most effective among YMSM who use methamphetamine, prevention programs should address issues such as housing, polydrug use, and educational needs.

“Prevention efforts targeting YMSM who use methamphetamine should also ensure that partner selection is addressed, as they showed higher rates of having sex with injection drug users and individuals with HIV.”

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