Woody's, the self-described "hottest" gay bar in the village, known for its leathermen and buff contests, played host to an event with a sober message on Wednesday, June 7: meth and sex don't mix.
The event was organized by the Toronto Gay/Bisexual Men's Crystal Meth Task Force , a group formed by the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT) in response to an increase in the number of gay and bi clients seeking counselling and treatment for meth use at ACT and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
A new website, Himynameistina. com (online June 24), was announced at the launch, which included testimonials by former meth users. The feds are contributing $138,000 to the project over two years.
But the goal isn't to say no to drugs, says ACT harm reduction coordinator Nick Boyce . It's to help people make informed choices. "We're not looking to stigmatize anyone," says Boyce. "We're looking out for each other."
Still, it's hard to miss the connection some made at the event: meth use contributes to riskier sexual behaviour among gays.
There are no accurate stats on crystal meth use among gay men in Toronto compared to the rest of the population. Based on comparisons with other cities and some local surveys, it's estimated that between 6 and 22 per cent of gay men have used meth in the last year.
"People have been talking about their failure to maintain safe-sex practice in their drug-induced high outside the bar and bathhouse," says Councillor Kyle Rae, the chair of the city's drug strategy committee . "There are concerns that crystal meth is the latest craze for a younger gay market."
Scare tactic? Is it homophobic to label meth a gay problem or to point to speculation in the gay community that it may in part be why HIV rates are on the rise?
To some former users, there's obviously a problem.
"I can go online and hook up with a trick and do meth in less than an hour," says Shaun Proulx , a speaker at the Woody's event. "I know because I've done it. It's easy."