To the Editor, Globe & Mail:


Re: “HIV’S LITTLE HELPER” (Globe & Mail – Toronto – Feb. 19)

What “experience” is the AIDS Committee of Toronto’s Chris Lau referring to
when, on the alarming use of crystal meth in gay bath-houses, he says,
“We’ve learned from experience we don’t want to be alarmist.”

While my ‘party’ days largely ended before drugs had so many nicknames I
know that it was inhibition-lowering substances which played a partial role
in my being infected with HIV in the 1980s. I well remember when reports of
‘mysterious cases’ of pneumocystis pneumonia and Kaposi’s Sarcoma were seen
as “alarmist”.

It is bad enough that the gay media, with their free magazines and
newspapers, support all sorts of peddlers of gay malaise – bars,
bath-houses, phone-sex lines and cruise-for-sex internet sites. It is worse
when the AIDS Committee of Toronto, founded in response to the health crisis
which began twenty-some years ago, continues its soft-sell bath-house
information campaigns about drug use, safer sex and the spread of HIV. ACT
has always defended the role of bath-houses in the gay culture, taking the
argument that their display racks and occasional “outreach” provide a place
for information sharing with men who might not otherwise connect with “the
community”. Something is not working. This is a public health issue,
concerning men who – through self-loathing or drug-induced carelessness –
are continuing to risk killing themselves.

Kenn Chaplin

HIV’S LITTLE HELPER

The ‘it drug’ of Toronto’s gay party scene, crystal meth is highly addictive and the comedown can leave users despondent, depressed and even suicidal. Worse, it’s now becoming linked to another alarming threat: the spread of HIV

By SHAUN PROULX

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Special to The Globe and Mail

Simon is a party boy in Toronto’s gay community. At 36, he’s hot, popular and loves what he calls “sexual fender-bender weekends,” which he describes as “disappearing on Friday and not coming up for air until late Sunday.” They happen at least once a month, he says, and inevitably involve two key ingredients: unsafe sex with as many different men as possible and crystal methamphetamine.

Simon (not his real name), who began using crystal meth four years ago, is HIV-positive and blames the extremely potent effects of the drug.

“Whatever it took you to be sexually active yet stay HIV-negative for up to 20 years, crystal meth takes all that away,” he says.

“Safe sex isn’t important. That [attitude] is beyond comprehension unless you’re on Tina.”

Crystal meth, known by users as Tina, ice, hydro, crank or chalk, is the latest drug of choice among those who use illegal substances to enhance sexual experiences, a practice known by some in the community as “party and play.” Snorted, smoked or “slammed” (injected), the popularity of crystal meth is on the rise: The World Health Organization estimates that 34 million people use it daily, and it has become prevalent on the “PnP” scene in Toronto.

It’s highly addictive, and the comedown can leave users despondent, depressed and even suicidal. And within the gay community it’s now becoming linked to another frightening threat: the spread of HIV.

Users cite the drug’s perceived positives: increased pleasurable sensation, a huge rise in confidence and boundless energy that can last for hours or days. It is also cheap: $60 for a quarter-gram supply that can go a long way. But most of all, according to users, crystal increases sexual desire to unimaginable levels, while smothering inhibitions into non-existence, including abandoning strongly upheld, decades-old safe-sex practices.

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