For seven years methamphetamine helped Ron Conner believe he was the talented, sexy, bold man he had always dreamed of being. The 37-year-old graphic artist would have sacrificed everything to hold onto that glamorous vision of himself -- and, ultimately, he nearly did.
"I lost my house, two cars, my checking and savings accounts, my piano, my boyfriend," he said. "I had sex with guys I knew were [HIV] positive, who said they were positive, and I just didn't care," he added.
Although Conner, who is sober and working again, did not end up HIV-positive, such is not the case for many gay meth users.
Health officials and AIDS activists nationwide are alarmed at the increasing correlation between new HIV diagnoses and methamphetamine use among gay men. The drug's ability to heighten arousal and erase inhibitions is proving a deadly combination %u2014 leading to sexual behavior that increases the chances of infection with HIV and syphilis. [...] In Los Angeles County last year, a third of all people recently diagnosed with HIV reported using methamphetamine, a survey found. The majority of those people are believed to be men who have sex with men. [...] In San Francisco, where one-third of gay and bisexual men are HIV-positive, the situation is equally grim. The STOP AIDS Project, which surveys 10,000 gay and bisexual men yearly and has analyzed county health data, reports that one-fifth of gay and bisexual men in San Francisco have used speed in the last six months. A third of men who recently tested HIV-positive had used the drug in the previous six months, the project found.
The curse of methamphetamine, also called speed, crank, tina and tweak, is not unique to gay men. As addictive as crack, more powerful than Ecstasy and cheaper than cocaine, methamphetamine has become the leading demon in drug treatment programs nationwide.
But meth's inroads into the lives of middle-class, professional gay men threaten to destabilize gay communities at a time when they have largely bounced back from the initial ravages of the AIDS epidemic. Otherwise productive "weekend warriors" who believed that they could limit their use to special occasions or weekend parties are finding themselves hooked.
On the one hand ... I kind of get it, you know?
And on the other ... I kind of don't.
And age isn't quite the excuse the article presents it as being. After all, the main they lead with, Ron Conner, is 37. He's old enough to have lived through the worst of the plague years. He's old enough to remember the worst of the plague years, if just barely.
I will admit to feeling somewhat ... irked at people who say that preachy ads made them feel so guilty about using that they started using even more. That has to be one of the worst excuses I've ever heard. Maybe it's just that drugs aren't among my particular addictions, such as they are, so that type of thing I really don't quite understand.
But I do get the desire to feel sexy and attractive, and above all, not to care about anything but the moment. And to take something that makes you feel all that, and allows you the courage to go out and find people who help validate that feeling ... Oh, yes. That I get.Posted by iain at January 19, 2005 04:12 PM