Longform

Meth and Sex

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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."

"I think the biggest reason we don't bust the gay community," says Detective Matt Shay, who works with Sherrard in Phoenix PD's Drug Enforcement Bureau, "is that the gay community pretty much keeps it to themselves."

And, in the gay community, meth is such a touchy subject, according to Steve Schimmel, an advertising manager for Echo magazine, Phoenix's most-circulated gay publication. Earlier this year, Echo ran a tongue-in-cheek anti-meth ad in consecutive issues, paid for by an AIDS-advocacy Web site based in New York.

The ad said:

"Buy crystal, get HIV for free."

"I'm sure we offended plenty of people," Schimmel says. "But you know what? I don't care. This is a huge problem. We need to get in people's faces."

A similar tactic worked in San Francisco, according to Jason Riggs, spokesman for the Stop AIDS Project there. The organization, in conjunction with a citywide effort modeled after other public health campaigns in Chicago, Boston and New York, began a series of similar efforts that included anti-meth posters and meth-and-HIV seminars after a Stop AIDS study in 2004 showed that 18 percent of San Francisco's gay and bisexual population were current meth users.

Just a year later, in the midst of the Stop AIDS "Crystal Clear" poster campaign, a survey of 4,200 gay and bisexual men showed that the number of those using meth had decreased to 10 percent.

Riggs says that his organization has been pre-emptively targeting gay men who are at the "highest risk" of using meth, before they actually do.

"We can't worry about the men who are already addicted to meth," Riggs says. "We have to let the treatment and recovery programs deal with them."

Bruce Porter, the state's HIV coordinator, says that, despite the agency's failure to address the dire public health concerns that arise from the combination of unprotected sex and meth use, it's only a matter of time before public funds are devoted to some type of educational awareness campaign.

But until that happens, Scott says meth will continue to ravage the gay community.

"Meth has set us back 10 to 20 years," he says. "We want gay marriage? We have no idea what commitment is."


Theresa's content, she says, even though she knows it's unlikely she'll ever be able to have children because of the dozen abortions she had as a meth addict.

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Joe Watson