By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
"Beyond that, all I remember is that I needed to fuck. I was just looking for a receptacle to put my dick in," Randy says. "Pretty much everyone I had sex with was just a receptacle."
Randy met eyes with a black-haired girl across the room once he finished getting high. She needed a ride home, and Randy, although he had a girlfriend at the time, needed "to get a nut."
"He was hot, man!" Randy recalls. "I thought he was a girl; everyone thought he was a girl."
Until the girl pulled down her pants and showed Randy she was only a girl in spirit.
"I can't really say what was going on in my head, but it wasn't enough for me to stop myself from getting what I wanted," Randy says. "He looked enough like a girl for me to fuck. So I did."
Scott is an HIV-positive tweaker. He's in recovery with Robert, Theresa and Randy, but he relapsed back in September, going on a monthlong meth and sex binge.
He hangs out at the Willow House, too, and goes to the same 12-step meetings.
"I had sex with as many as 20 different guys in that one month," Scott says, taking a long drag of an American Spirit, gazing out the window of the Willow House on a breezy Saturday afternoon. "I have no idea exactly how many men. I was high every time."
Steven Varnadore says he deals with new HIV patients like Scott all the time. As a communicable-disease investigator with the county's health department, Varnadore's job is to contact every sex partner new patients can identify. (The new patients are required to inform Varnadore and the county to be eligible for HIV treatment.)
Varnadore spends most of his time sifting through lists as many as 300 names long of former sex partners who might have been exposed to HIV.
"And I'd say that, easily, better than 50 percent of them are meth users," he says.
The figure sounds high, but not far off from a June 2005 assessment of Phoenix's HIV-positive population, funded by a federal grant, that says almost 44 percent have used crystal meth. Of those referred to in the report as MSMs (men having sex with men) and HIV-positive, 40 percent said they were users.
What's worse, according to Mark Kezios, the director of HIV services for Pueblo Family Physicians, a clinic in central Phoenix that caters to lower-income patients, is that those same HIV-positive, meth-using patients are still having unprotected sex.
"They just don't care, it seems, what happens to them or to the people they're having sex with," Kezios says.
Scott says it's not that he doesn't care; after all, he tells every prospective sex partner that he's HIV-positive (and has been since 1993).
"At that point, it's up to them whether or not they want to have sex with me," he says.
Problem is, they tend to make that fateful decision high on "Tina," meth's most common nickname in the gay community.
The easiest way to score meth is by visiting a gay chat room online, Scott says. In fact, his most recent relapse occurred after a late-night cruise on the Web.
"It's easy," he says. "Some guys advertise that they'll just leave their apartment door open, you can come in, slam some meth, fuck them, and then leave."
On sites like gay.com and men4sexnow.com, users publish profiles that advertise "PnP," an acronym for "party and play," a.k.a. tweak and sex. But it's becoming more difficult to get hook-ups on some sites, like manhunt.net, which edits all references to "PnP" and even the word "party" out of users' profiles.
Frustrated, a gay tweaker might head out to any of Phoenix's gay dance clubs, where it's easy to spot the "circuit boys," who travel in packs with supplies of meth, Ecstasy, and poppers from party to party.
The circuit boys will usually wait around until closing time to organize a very exclusive after-hours party where a dozen or more gay men will gather to snort or slam meth, and then begin having unprotected sex, often in groups.
If they don't find their way into a meth party, there's always a gay bathhouse. At the bathhouses, men wait inside their private rooms as horny tweakers search for prospective partners and dance music pumps through the PA system.
Patrick Kelly, the owner of The Chute (a central Phoenix bathhouse) and a member of the Phoenix City Council's crystal meth task force spearheaded by councilmen Tom Simplot and Dave Siebert, knows his bathhouse is a tweaker haven. But, he says, he's done everything he can to eliminate its presence, posting anti-meth signs, kicking out drug users, and keeping a three-ring binder of more than 200 names of those who've been 86'ed.
"I'm so tired of people blaming me for their HIV and their drug addictions. I'm not the one responsible for that," Kelly says. "I'm not the reason they got AIDS or hooked on meth. It's their own behavior. There's only so much policing I can do."
Local law enforcement officials, like Phoenix police meth-lab supervisor Sherrard, know that meth is a huge problem in the gay community, and, he says, they know where to find it. But, he admits, police are doing little to address it. Sherrard tells New Times that police don't want to be seen as "bashing the gay community" by targeting gay bathhouses or dance clubs. "That's the last thing we need," he says, "to be seen as if we're harassing gays."