Experiences that people with HIV have had with drugs

Sometimes a nice little something extra 
I never use drugs when I am looking for sex. But drugs can sometimes be a nice little something extra when you’re having fun with a sexy guy. You might end up doing something a little different and that can be really fun.

They can open up a whole new world
Drugs can make sex more exciting, hornier and more special. They can really open up a whole new world. Before I actually start taking HIV medicines, I’m going to be completely open with my HIV doctor and tell him that I use certain drugs. It’s important to me that I can continue to use those.

I’m absolutely never going to use drugs
I once tried to have sex with a guy who was practically incapacitated from drugs. He definitely couldn’t manage to get a hard-on. I thought it was terrible that he was so far gone. I thought to myself: ‘I’m absolutely never going to use drugs.’

I don’t want to be a walking pharmacy
I know men who use a lot of drugs – often even different kinds of drugs at the same time. I don’t want to be a walking pharmacy. A drug that helps you have more relaxed sex can be nice, so that you feel less inhibited, just like with alcohol. I’ve tried a few different types of drugs in the past. Now I use XTC a couple of times a year. I used to think poppers were really disgusting, but lately I’ve been using them regularly.

I point out the advantages and the disadvantages
Many of our patients are from the old generation of drug users: the old street junkies. They inject a lot of drugs. The new generation takes pills and snorts powders. Some people actually need drugs in order to be sexually active. I see it as my job to point out all the advantages and the disadvantages so the person can make a well-considered decision.

One advantage of drugs is that they can help a person relax. And they might give you a sense of belonging to a certain crowd. Some of the disadvantages are that you could need more and more of a drug over time, that you will have more and more trouble getting and maintaining an erection, and that you could end up going beyond the boundaries you have set for yourself. You can potentially even die from experimenting with drugs.
Jolanda Schippers, HIV nurse

More chance of getting sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
We ask all our patients if they use drugs. From time to time we will ask for an update: ‘Back then you said that you used this or that. Is that still the case?’ Especially people who go to sex parties tend to use drugs. With drugs, people tend to experience the sex as being more fun and they feel freer. When they are on drugs, people will often take longer to have an orgasm, or not have one at all, which means that they can continue to have sex over a longer period. With XTC, some people are less able to maintain an erection. As a result, they might take an erection pill along with the XTC. People often make a personal mix: ‘I start with a bit of this, and then halfway through the evening I take a bit of that, and at the end of the evening I take something else.’ It might go from XTC via GHB to ketamine.
People who regularly have STIs are almost always drug users. They just accept the chance that they might get chlamydia or gonorrhoea. Many people who have had STIs very often will mention at a certain point that they are not happy about that. It can take them a few years, but often they will eventually feel they want to do something about the uncertainty they face each time they get tested for STIs; about having to take more antibiotics to cure what they have; about the burning sensation they get every time they pee; about the ‘dirty’ feeling they get when they have an STI; about having to drop their pants for an injection...
Loek Elsenburg, HIV nurse




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