By Paul Flynn
Miguel was in the middle of a three-day sex and drug binge when he looked at Grindr and saw an advert asking for people to participate in a film about sex and drug binges. “I hooked up with a guy,” he says, “and then we contacted them.” Soon a cameraman was filming him injecting drugs.
And with that Miguel became one of the central storylines of the new documentary feature Chemsex. This is the first film to explore a gay subculture that’s recently found notoriety in the mainstream media after the NHS and the British Medical Journal identified it as a health priority. And this comes almost a decade after chemsex caused some arguments in the gay community itself, inspiring sadness, attrition, blame and confusion.
Chemsex is identified in the film as the habit of engaging in weekend-long parties fuelled by sexually disinhibiting drugs, such as crystal meth, GHB, GBL and mephedrone. These parties involve multiple people and are mostly facilitated online. The testimonies in the film from people involved in the subculture directly link chemsex to alarming rates of HIV infection. In London four new positive diagnoses are currently made daily. There is candid talk on film about “pozzing up”, the practise of knowingly becoming infected with the virus. Meth, meph and G create a potent cocktail enabling extremes of behaviour, which carries significant risks for the sexual and mental health of habitual users.
For anyone unsure about the impact of chemsex on real lives, the tale of Miguel should offer some clarity. “I rapidly agreed to have my face unblurred,” he says. “They filmed me on various comedowns, meltdowns and on one very losing-the-plot crystal meth binge. I think this documentary is a huge step in reaching out to the general public and showing that we’re not hopeless junkies who will die in their own various bodily fluids.”
The film feels like a powerful testimony to help vulnerable men who see themselves as no more than vessels, of no value, existing for the outer edges of human consumption. The film arrives amid a £200m health cut. “There are a lot of gay men who need help,” says David Stuart.
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