Athan, in his 30s, was always blunt with me about his drug use… particularly as used when having sex with groups of men. For instance, as he recalled to me, the first time he asked to join a Telegram-found partee and play (i.e. a drug-fueled sex party found through a GC in the Telegram app) he was supposedly asked four things:
- If he’s top or bottom or versatile, and what his planned role will be in the scheduled gathering;
- His dick size (and if he can send a dick pic);
- If he’s HIV positive, and if so, if he’s undetectable; and
- If he’s HIV negative, and if so, if he’s already using pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
The last part (#4) was actually a not-that-big of an issue since those who are HIV negative and yet still do not use PrEP may still join AS LONG AS they would be willing to be enrolled in a PrEP program of this-or-that clinic that dispenses PrEP in Metro Manila. Some people from these clinics are supposedly there, too, joining in the fun… while dispensing PrEP.
And this, in a way, is a scenario PrEP advocates may not have anticipated. That the medicine that could cut HIV infection rate by 99% (the good part) is now – it can be argued – a partee and play tool (the not so good part), along with bags of meth, stocks of E, poppers, et cetera.
Yes, yes… at least people parteeing and playing are safer from getting infected with HIV because of PrEP. That’s a given.
But that PrEP is now also linked with illegal drug use (thus substance abuse, a huge issue particularly in the gay and bi community) and, yes, generally unsafe sexual practices… well, that’s a different thing altogether.
It is as if saying that where PrEP is, there’s bound to be something else there altogether (e.g. partee and play). Not exactly necessarily true, but… you get the drift.
On occasion, Athan said, there’d be five to 12 participants per orgy (at least those he joined); all slamming before fucking nonstop for days. The numbers change – e.g. some would leave early, replacements would come, and so on. No matter who’s there, though, two things are common – i.e. that they use drugs, and that they use PrEP because the fucking is always bareback (sans condom).
Meth, he said, amplifies what’s good in sex. So that skin-to-skin feeling afforded by bareback sex? That’s more pronounced when slamming, too. And this is made possible by PrEP. So yes to slamming… yes to bareback sex… thanks to PrEP.
At times, too, he claimed he saw parteemates while getting his supplies of PrEP. And then at times, we discover new parteemates while visiting clinics to get our supplies, Athan said. It’s like… a full circle; what helps us do what we’re doing is giving us key players while doing it, he laughed.
Studies have been done about the link of PrEP and meth use (such as THIS and THIS), particularly for partee and play. At least overseas. And yet the focus has been, yes, that at least PrEP is used to lessen HIV infection.
Thus far none focused on the use of PrEP just so gay and bi men can partee and play; nor see how this link may be a possible entry for interventions – e.g. for drug addiction within the gay and bi community.
And this is where existing approaches related to PrEP can be criticized as shortsighted. That it can do good can’t be denied. But that it signifies an ongoing issue within the gay and bi community, and yet this isn’t even investigated further is problematic.
Because if Athan’s experience is to be considered, then that link between PrEP and meth use is truly getting cemented… with PrEP providers not even looking at this as an issue meriting attention.
Athan has been trying to cut his meth use. It’s hard, he said, and every day is hard work. He has been trying to distance himself from triggers… social media (particularly Telegram, Grindr and Romeo); going to places frequented by (former) parteemates; et cetera. But he also stopped using PrEP… at least for now. It’s another trigger for me, he said, this knowledge I can fuck without consequences, plus getting access to all these other PrEP users looking for the same thing I am looking for. It seems counterintuitive (considering I know what PrEP can do)… but better than taking meth again, I suppose.
Alas… we’ve reached a stage when PrEP is seen as bad…