Meth and Sex

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"I remember we stressed about the cum shot, the 'money shot,' for so long," Robert says -- typical, obsessive tweaker behavior. Eventually, they finished the film, and ended up selling it to a small-time subsidiary of a larger porn distributor for about $7,500.

"They started out with a $10,000 offer," Robert says. "But then they came out to see us, saw that our faces were sunken in and how skinny we were, and they lowballed us down to, like, $6,000. We had to struggle just to get the price we did."

Randy, now a beer-bellied process server also in recovery, never made his own porn. But he did do things he wouldn't have done had he not been on meth.

There are some things about that hot summer night that Randy remembers vividly: He left his job as a car salesman to meet up with some fellow tweakers at a house party, he says, as Robert and Theresa nod, almost fondly remembering what those days were like. At the tweaker party, Randy would sell some meth, and smoke a little, too.

"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."

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Joe Watson