London gay men are being warned crystal meth could be causing a huge HIV spike in the capital.
Doctors believe while there are a small number of users, methamphetamine is having a disproportionate effect on gay men.
Increasing numbers of gay and bisexual men in the capital are injecting it, sharing needles and combining it with other drugs and high-risk sexual activity. They say the increase in crystal meth is linked to a sharp rise in HIV diagnoses, hepatitis C and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Dr Owen Boden Jones, who works at a specialist clinic at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, told Channel 4 News:
‘We’re seeing people who are using a hugely powerful drug, by injection, who have higher rates of HIV, and they’re engaging in high-risk sex.
‘In the context of sexual behaviors, this really is a public health nightmare.’
Home Office figures from 2012 showed 17,000 people aged 16-59 in England and Wales took crystal meth.
But a new report compiled by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine recently revealed three times as many gay and bisexual men in London inject drugs than in England as a whole.
The analysis also found four times as many use crystal meth in the capital than across the rest of the country.
Antidote, a drug and alcohol project working with LGBT people in London, says crystal meth users who injected the drug rose from 30% in 2011 to 70% in 2012. Clinics say the number is increasing in other cities in the UK including Manchester and Leeds.
While some are suggesting that it is not a problem as it is certainly a very small number affected, there is still a disproportionate risk.
Others urged for caution as the data may also be reflecting greater awareness of the clinics specializing for a limited number of individuals.