About AIDS

Holidays and nights: Beware Viagra and Tina

As we get into the holiday season, thoughts turn more toward having a good time with friends. Lots of parties are happening, from office doings to Saturday night blasts at the clubs. It can all be great fun -- but what a time for falling off the meds wagon or engaging in the risky friskies.

In this vein, two of the most "dangerous" substances out there are Viagra and crystal meth ("Tina"). Unfortunately, both abound in Austin, particularly among young people and among young gay/bi men especially.

Viagra has become a party drug du jour, easily available on the Net or in clubs. Yet, its use has been linked repeatedly to guys having unsafe sex, with users two to three times more likely to catch a sexually transmitted disease, including HIV, than nonusers. The flip side: If Viagra use enhances someone's getting infected, it ups the chance of someone passing an STD/HIV, too.

Crystal meth also has made big inroads locally. Like any speed form, Tina provides that sense of energy for dancing all night -- or sex all night. But what an irony: Tina brings the energy but takes away the erection. Hence, Viagra to the rescue.

Crystal use has also been linked to HIV-poz people failing to take their meds. Research in vitro also indicates that amphetamines speed up HIV reproduction. Was there ever a situation more ripe for disaster? Treatment failure, viral load increase, and HIV transmission all rolled into one.

Get out there and have a good time -- it's the holiday season! Just be careful about how you do it. The wrong party enhancers could leave behind more than just a hang-over.

Sandy Bartlett

Community Education Coordinator, AIDS Services of Austin

Have questions about HIV or AIDS? Call the ASA Info-Line at 458-AIDS or e-mail sandy.bartlett@ASAustin.org.

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