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County of Los Angeles
Department of Public Health
Division of HIV and STD Programs
600 S. Commonwealth Avenue, 10th Fl.
Los Angeles, CA 90005
Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. M - F
Phone: (213) 351-8000
Fax: (213) 738-0825


Meth and HIV

The County of Los Angeles is working to combat methamphetamine use in our community.  Please check out the information below or you can contact Jane R. Bowers at or (213) 351-8283 for additional information.

Why is there an association between methamphetamine use and HIV?

The association between methamphetamine use and HIV transmission is related to:

  1. the tendency of users to engage in unprotected and uninhibited sex while under the influence of methamphetamine among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men; and
  2. the risks associated with injection drug use for those who inject methamphetamine.

Many gay men who are methamphetamine users may not use condoms and may have sex with many different partners while experiencing the effects of the drug. Sex while under the influence of methamphetamine can be rougher and often lasts longer. This increases the likelihood that a condom may break or a sexual partner experiences injury during intercourse, which in turn increases the risk of HIV infection.

Different studies have found that gay men who use methamphetamine are two to four times more likely to be infected with HIV. For those infected with HIV, methamphetamine use can lead to a lapse in HIV medication regimens, weight loss and vitamin depletion. Use also decreases the sleep essential to maintaining the immune system and causes a drop in T cells and NK cells.

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug being used by growing numbers of adolescents and adults in the United States.  In Los Angeles County, methamphetamine has emerged as the leading cause of admissions for substance abuse treatment, accounting for nearly 30% of all treatment admissions in 2005.

Methamphetamine use has a pronounced impact on certain populations, including adolescents, women, and men who have sex with men (MSM) but ultimately impacts our entire population.

  • Approximately 1 out of every 10 MSM in Los Angeles County reported methamphetamine use within the past 6 months, a frequency 20 times greater than the reported MA use among the general population (Shoptaw et al., 2005). This is consistent with other studies that have found high rates of methamphetamine use among MSM, an important contributor to the HIV epidemic in this population because of its association with increased sexual risk behavior.
  • In addition, data from our counseling and testing sites suggest that MSM who use methamphetamine are almost 2.5 times more likely to test positive for HIV than MSM who do not use methamphetamine.

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