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Scientists: HIV and Meth Use Combine to Heighten COVID-19 Risk

May 15, 2020

Methamphetamine use and HIV, now compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, “could create double jeopardy among men who have sex with men,” according to a recent editorial published in AIDS and Behavior by a public health scientist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and a group of researchers from other universities.

Adam W. Carrico, PhD, produced the editorial in collaboration with researchers from the San Diego State University Department of Psychology, CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, the Northwestern University School of Medicine, and SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University.

Damage to the immune system by HIV, through a process called residual immune dysregulation, combined with immune system damage from methamphetamine use, increases the risk for COVID-19 among an already-vulnerable population, the researchers say.

Other potential risks cited in the editorial:

  • Methamphetamine users may struggle to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Men who seek out partners for substance use and sex could cause COVID-19 clusters.
  • Those with HIV who use methamphetamine or other stimulants face greater challenges navigating the HIV care continuum.
  • Stress and social isolation related to the pandemic can exacerbate psychiatric disorders, lead to increased substance use, and threaten the efficacy of substance use disorder treatment.

The authors recommend the use of telehealth platforms to provide support for individuals with mental health and/or substance use disorders and promote adherence to social distancing directives.

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