The Crystal Crisis
"Life vs. Meth" [July/August 2002] scared the hell out of me. I have done meth at least once a week for the last 10 years. It hurt me to hear these young men's stories. I didn't want to know how much damage I was doing to myself. There have even been times that I quit using my HIV meds and ended up in the hospital. I love (or am addicted to) the high -- and as Kevin Koffler described, I can't imagine sex without meth. I guess I have to ask myself: Who is running the show here? Me or crystal meth? Thank you for the slap in the face. You helped me open my eyes wider than I had the courage to.
-- D. Johnson
For me, the crystal craze started in San Francisco in the early 1980s: fast-paced, beautiful men (and women) who shot meth on dance floors and in bathhouses, highway restrooms or the backseat of someone's car.
It's been more than a decade since I used. The dreams of "the hit" get less frequent, but when it happens, I wake up and gasp that -- whew! -- it was just a dream. Now I take care of my health, and my CD4 count and viral load are good. All but one of my user friends are dead. We marvel at our luck. Kevin Koffler's article brought back all the memories. It was too real.
-- Name Withheld
Via the Internet
There is another downside to crystal: prison. More than half of the former meth addicts in this man-made hell are HIV positive. I used meth long before seroconverting in 1987. If dealing with this disease on the streets is hard, in prison it is much worse. Inadequate health care, bad foods, no access to vitamins or herbs and an uncaring, negative environment. So while you are thinking about "Tina," please think about me, too. I have to do another 12 years.
The odds are less than 50/50 that I'll survive the disease of my body combined with the disease of prison. Don't cut your life any shorter by using meth. It's still illegal -- and in Texas, they don't play. They make you pay.
-- C.M. Nowell #427154, J.M. Wynne Unit (C4-109-B)
I am an HIV positive gay man who's frequented some of the Hollywood/Silverlake clubs Kevin Koffler wrote about. I've been through several treatment centers, but alas, I always seem to go back to using crystal for sex. I'm now in another treatment center, trying to put my life together. I am 21, and I know I won't be able to live longer than a couple of years unless I stay sober. Thank you, POZ.
-- Sean Morgan
San Bernardino, California
It took me 18 months to kick crystal -- I even moved to London in an attempt to escape it. As Kevin Koffler points out, all my insecurities and dysfunctions reappeared when I stopped using crystal.
But the good news is, through therapy and hard work, I was able to regain my hold on life, ignite my ambition for the future and even negotiate the dreaded sex-without-drugs. There is life after crystal!
-- Andrew McDonald
Thank you for helping to celebrate Camp Heartland's 10th-anniversary summer ["Young at Heartland," July/August 2002]. Katja Heinemann's photos beautifully portray the spirit of our children. However, two captions raised concern among our staff and campers' families. First, the child shown with the IV bag feels very comfortable in the camp community. Contrary to your caption, camp is one of few places he truly feels free to be himself. We are disappointed in your speculation that his "heart isn't in it," because that is simply untrue.
Second, our campers have opportunities to be goofy and creative, to participate in skits, to express themselves boldly without fear of rejection and to dress up for a variety of themed meals. However, a "cross-dressing day" is not -- and never has been -- part of Camp Heartland's program.
-- Jennifer Robbins, VP
Camp Heartland, Milwaukee
POZ responds: As the caption's kicker -- "Hide in Plain View" -- suggests, what the boy's heart isn't in is hiding his IV bag, which hangs very visibly, even jauntily, from under his shorts. But the notion that any camp for children would feature Cross-Dressing Day seems to have been a POZ-staff delusion that was introduced in the editing process. Sorry.
When it comes to people having sex and not disclosing their HIV status, I agree with South Dakota's governor: "This is no different from pointing a gun at somebody and pulling the trigger" ["Sex Crimes," July/August 2002]. During a break in our relationship, my partner slept with a couple known in our community as the "Black Widows." My other half was really drunk and they took him home. We waited the long six months -- and, yes, he was positive. He died four years later.
I worked at the town's only gay bar, and watched this couple do this to so many unsuspecting individuals. What could I do? The only AIDS group in town told me that, because of confidentiality laws, there was no way they could help me. I got pamphlets about safe sex, wrote on the back that these two were known to be spreading the disease and displayed them at the bar -- hoping to scare them into stopping this behavior.
Tell your status every time! Your partners have a right to know, even if disclosure means you might have to use your hand that night instead.
-- Randy Rowland
A few years ago, I started dating someone I met at an HIV support group. Later, I learned that this person was having unprotected sex with many others -- I even got their names and phone numbers. I have since married another HIVer and am pleased with my life, but knowing what my former lover did and not doing anything haunts me. My gut feeling is that this person is a monster and should be penalized. But I don't know what action I can take to protect others. There are many people out there doing the same thing -- and it is everyone's responsibility.
-- Pat Smith
Bronx, New York
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