The National Institute on Drug Abuse has awarded $17 million to University of California in San Diego’s (UCSD) School of Medicine to study the link between methamphetamine use and HIV/AIDS, City News Service reports.

The university said the money would help establish the Translational Methamphetamine AIDS Research Center. For five years, UCSD researchers will receive more than $3 million annually to examine the combined effects of methamphetamine and HIV on the central nervous system.

“Currently, the combined effects of meth and HIV are poorly understood,” said Igor Grant, MD, a professor of psychiatry at UCSD. “There is a converging HIV epidemic among young, gay habitual meth users, which suggests meth may be amplifying the effects of HIV.”

Researchers said chronic meth use might produce an inflammatory response in the brain, making users more susceptible to HIV. The drug also makes them less inhibited, reduces the sensation of pain and increases energy.

According to the university, more than a third of people who recently tested HIV positive in San Diego have used meth.