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Opinion: Chemwreck

Posted in: Safe Sex
By Craig Young - 16th January 2016

In December 2015's Attitude, there was a sobering section on chemsex and HIV/AIDS in the United Kingdom. What can we learn from it?

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Let's start by defining what chemsex isn't. If someone uses clean needles during IV drug use, condoms and PrEP during (safe) sex, and doesn't undertake polydrug use, then they aren't the problem. Responsible IV drug users who stick to a single injectable substance and observe safety precautions generally aren't, with one exception.

No-one knows the exact scale of New Zealand's own chemsex problem. Certainly, there is more gay male disposable income in the metropolitan United Kingdom than in New Zealand, and in the United Kingdom, the problem polydrugs are P/crystal meth, gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and mephedrone. GHB needs precise administration, so it is unsurprising that overdoses, organ impairment and death are commonplace in the United Kingdom. According to UK LGBT substance abuse recovery activist Patrick Cash, some chemsex users are collapsing in sex on site venues.

Fortunately, UK sexual health and substance abuse agencies have mobilised to demand help for gay and bisexual chemsex users who now realise the pitfalls attendant on polydrug use and unprotected sex under the influence. The problem isn't restricted to London. either- Cash notes that chemsex prevention and recovery services now exist in smaller UK cities such as Bristol, Brighton, Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham and other areas. Dirty needle sharing goes on, needles are reused, HIV and STI infected body fluids enter the veins, unprotected sex also happens, and HIV and Hepatitis C are also transmitted. Chemsex is also publicised through gay dating apps such as Grindr and other services, particularly the existence of 'chillout' parties in which the sexual experience may be intensive, but the paranoid psychosis and bipolar depression resultant from exhaustion or depletion of the neurochemical dopamine afterward isn't, even if some doesn't engage in unsafe IV drug use or sex.

One could ask why this is happening here. In the United Kingdom, age of consent inequality prevailed until equality finally arrived in 2003. However, New Zealand has had publically funded LGBT youth support organisations and services, as well as safe sex material for those sixteen and over. However, like the United States, New Zealand doesn't have mandatory evidence-based comprehensive sexuality education classes in state schools, as well as statutory guidelines for LGBT-inclusive educational content and comprehensive LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying legislation.Attitude's excellent chemsex article focused on a broad range of ethnicities and ages ranged from twenty three to forty three, although it occurs to me that some teenagers and older gay and bisexual men might also be undertaking similar dangerous experimentation. It was also laudable that the magazine's article focused on HIV+ and HIV- gay men alike, as well as seeking input from alcohol and drug venue managers, entertainment industry figures, lawyers and medical practitioners.

Lastly, the article provides an excellent list of (UK-based) chemsex prevention resources, which it would be useful to consult for those who want to establish similar services here. However, we also urgently need New Zealand-based research to ascertain the scale and scope of our own national chemsex problem.

Recommended:

Antidote: London Friend:http://www.londonfriend.org.uk/get-support/ drugsandalcohol

56 Dean Street:http://www.chemsexsupport.com,http://www.deanstreetwellbein gprogramme.com


Patrick Cash et al: "Let's talk about gay sex and drugs"Attitude264 (December 2015): 70-85


Craig Young - 16th January 2016

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