HIV infections rise in RGV as use of crystal meth increases

Local News

EDITOR’S NOTE: Oscar Lopez is the CEO of Poderosos but not affiliated with the Valley Aids Council.

HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — Crystal meth is now the leading cause of overdose deaths and the number one cause for new HIV infections in the Rio Grande Valley.

“I was first exposed to methamphetamines, meth in NYC. This was some 20 years ago, and it was extremely popular in New York, in L.A., and in large urban cities. I never heard about it, seen it, used or anything,” said Oscar Lopez, CEO of Poderosos.

He recalls the moment he first tried meth at a friend’s party, and how addictive the drug can be.

“You don’t know how much you’re taking. You don’t know how strong it is. You don’t know if someone’s mixed it with fentanyl into it which makes it that much more dangerous.”

Lopez now describes himself as a recovering addict and is sounding the alarm across the nation about meth overdose.

“Always talk to us especially if you’re worried. Be very careful around people using it because they’re going to exploit you,” Lopez said.

Lopez and other health leaders explain that the pandemic has created a surge of drug use.

In October, the CDC reporting an uptick in overdoses and suicide attempts. With meth being the main culprit, and it’s not slowing down.

In recent years, meth seizures at the border have gone up by over 150 percent. Now a year into the pandemic, experts say depression, anxiety and poverty is leading more people to experiment with drugs.

“You would not have normally tried a substance but you’re now in a mental or emotional state where ‘you know what? I’m willing to do anything just to feel good’,” said Dr. Dora Martinez.

Dr. Martinez said that unlike other drugs, meth can create instant addiction. However, the risk doesn’t stop with the drug itself. Arousal can lead to unsafe sex, increases the risk of contracting HIV,

“It enhances sexual experience and libido and in turn decreases inhibitions so you’re more likely to do things you wouldn’t when you’re sober including unsafe sex, condom-less sex, multiple partners.”

To learn more about HIV treatments available in the Rio Grande Valley, visit the Valley Aids Council.

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