Drugs

The Rise of Chemsex in New Zealand

We talked to a sex worker about the popularity of drug-enhanced sex in Auckland's underground gay scene.
Image via Flickr

Aidan Cahill was 16 when he started working in the sex industry and 18 when he found out he was HIV positive. It was about the same time he started to PNP [Party and Play]—take drugs for the purpose of having sex. Aidan goes into detail about his first experience in his just-released memoir, Aidan, 19: So Far, when he met up with four guys in Helensville, a rural suburb north of Auckland, injected methamphetamine—also for the first time—and had a 12-hour sex session.

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“The injection totally changed me I’m not one to put 100 percent into sucking cock but that blast made me cock hungry. I had a cock in my mouth and one in each hand. I was loving it.
We got up to all sorts of kinky things. Things I would never have imagined like ‘sounding’—where you insert metal rods down the eye of your penis. Surprisingly it actually felt quite good! Then the fisting started.”

Over the last five years, the number of gay and bi men infected with HIV in New Zealand has been steadily rising and last year HIV rates reached their highest level ever with 244 cases reported. Also on its way up: methamphetamine use. Gay sex and methamphetamine are increasingly connected but nobody’s talking about it much and HIV support workers say we need to be.

That’s why Mark Fisher, executive of Body Positive, an Auckland organisation founded by and working with people with HIV/AIDS, is running an open mic night, Gay Sex & Drugs, as part of the Puawai HIV awareness festival.

The PNP phenomenon, which started in the clubs of London, has made its way to the South Pacific, where a quick login to an app like Grindr or BBRT [Bareback Real Time] will easily lead to a no-strings hookup.

People’s risk assessment disappears when they PNP, says Fisher. “That’s part of the attraction.” But the silence around the scene is a barrier to safety. Fisher recommends simple things like keeping $20 in your sock so you can get a taxi home after. He also encourages players to consider bigger questions, like why they feel the need to take drugs to have sex in the first place. “It’s not about people stopping,” says Fisher. “We’re trying to make a space where people can have that conversation.”

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VICE caught up with Aidan over the phone to talk more about his PNP experience, the risks he's willing to take, and what keeps him coming back for more. If you’ve got a story to share as well, head to The Tin Room at 25 Cross St tonight and get on the mic.

Aidan started injecting methamphetamine the first time he PNPed. Image: Shutterstock

VICE: Hi Aidan. What was the gay scene like in Auckland when you first came here?
Aidan: It was very intense. That’s when I first got introduced to the whole PNP thing. It was very sleazy and a lot of drugs—mainly methamphetamine and GHB.

Will you take meth or GHB on a night out?
I’m not one to go out because I got so involved when I first came to Auckland in the PNP scene it sort of killed my confidence to go out to pubs and clubs. I choose to get high instead.

So it’s more likely you'll get high and connect with people through apps?
Yeah. You’ll go on Grindr, BBRT [Bareback Real Time] or Squirt or things like that.

Any day or any time in particular?
Any time. Weekends is more popular for it. But it’s there any time if you really look for it.

How often would you PNP?
To completely honest, last time was probably a week ago. I met up with one guy.

Would it normally be one?
Normally it’s a group of people. When I first PNPed, that’s where my addiction really started. From the PNP it built my addiction. Now that’s the main thing for me.

What have been your best experiences with PNP?
Probably the first time I used in Helensville. There were five of us and the whole session went so fast but it was such a long period of time. I would have been there 12 hours. It was very full on. We got there before night time then all of a sudden the sun was up.

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What steps will you take to keep yourself safe?
If you’re not HIV, condoms really. I always disclose status.

How often would the people you meet up with be HIV?
All the people I meet up with are.

How is your health?
I’ve got good health. It’s not a death sentence anymore. I’m just grateful that there is a—well not a cure, but a cover up.

Has PNP ever got dark? Have you had times when you're thinking, I don’t want to be here?
I got held hostage in a hotel by some guy who had been up for too long and got paranoid. He put the drawers in front of the door and sat there. I didn’t know what to do. I tried calming him down but it didn’t work. I went and had a shower. He went to the bedroom when I had a shower and I just pushed the drawers aside and left.

There’s a concern that when people are out of it on drugs the line of consent gets blurred and they become targets for rape. Is that a worry for you?
I’m a giver not a receiver. I’ve never done that and never had it done to me. But I’ve witnessed that and told them to stop it.

Have you ever been with anyone when they overdosed?
Yes, that was on G. He went to the hospital. I called the ambulance. That was scary. In New Zealand we called it wazzing. That’s when you take G and you lose control of what you’re doing.

Have you ever overdosed?
No. I can handle my drugs quite well.

Do you have any concerns about being part of the PNP scene?
The only concern is the whole bareback things. When you’re so out of it and high the thought of your safety and safe sex just goes.

Have you ever ended up in relationship with guys you’ve partied with?
Friendships, yes, but not relationships.

Do you enjoy your work?
I love being high and fucking. But at the end of the day it’s only to feed my addiction really.

If you or someone you know has HIV and would like support you can can contact Body Positive.

Gay Sex & Drugs is at the Tin Room in Cross St, Auckland, November 29. See the full Puawai programme here.