This is dedicated to Travis Holappa who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered on July 25, 2004 in Northern Minnesota. This was all due to meth. I am Travis' mother and I wish to make this devastation turn into a better thing by educating and exposing the truth about meth, the dangers, and the deadly consequences it brings about to individuals and communities.

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Location: Colorado, United States

I want to do what I can to educate people about what is going on around the world with the meth problem. I want people to know about it BEFORE they even get the idea to want to try it. It is a dangerous drug and will ruin your life as well as all those who love you. I am on a mission on behalf of my only son, Travis.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Kick crystal meth habit out of gay community (Michigan)

M y 90-year-old mother-in-law -- Joyce's mom -- felt grief-stricken. She'd just heard that a friend had cancer, and doctors doubted he'd make it another five years.

Her friend, it turns out, is 105. But my mother-in-law refuses to take the prospect of anyone's death -- even at 110 -- in stride.

Her spirit belongs on a rainbow-colored bumper-sticker: "Life Matters: Make Yours a Long One."

As I read the new book by therapist Michael Shernoff about the complicated reasons gay men engage in high-risk sex, threatening themselves and other gay men with contracting a killer virus that's 100 percent preventable, I thought about Joyce's mom.

She's outlived countless epidemics and survived breast cancer. She smiles as she frailly pushes a walker, bragging that she's improved since her hip replacements and is sticking to her low-cholesterol diet. She's doing everything she can to care for the precious gift that is her life.

We gay people must do more as a community to embrace longevity. Helping a risk-taking gay man make life-affirming choices can be difficult and frustrating work.

But we can start with one overdue step: Kicking crystal methamphetamine out of our community.

My high school French teacher warned against being duped by faux amis, "false friends," such as "main" (French for "hand'), whose meanings are easy to mistake.

"Crystal meth" is one of the gay community's most deadly faux amis. Its victims find out too late that the drug doesn't really mean endless pleasure. We must slam the door on the drug fueling new AIDS infections, shortening the lives of countless wonderful gay men and threatening to hurl us back decades by spreading medication-resistant strains of HIV.

In "Without Condoms: Unprotected Sex, Gay Men and Barebacking," Shernoff labels crystal "the premium fuel for unsafe sex." Even men who occasionally use crystal report being more likely to engage in high-risk sex without condoms when high. Its superficial appeal is understandable -- it makes users feel euphoric, lowers inhibitions and intensifies sex. A common side effect -- impotence -- is often crazily countered with Viagra.

Gay crystal users report being more likely to participate in group sex parties where, under the drug's mind-twisting power, HIV concerns can evaporate. That men using crystal are more likely to be HIV-positive makes the potential dangers to HIV-negative men at sex parties more alarming.

In Michigan, where 9 percent of men having sex with men report using crystal, the familiar pattern seen in cities like meth-troubled San Francisco is emerging: One-quarter of meth users versus 16 percent of nonusers report never using condoms during anal sex, the Midwest AIDS Prevention Project's 2004 statewide survey found.

Therapists working with crystal users may find Shernoff's examples of "harm reduction" techniques helpful to build trust that may lead clients to stop using through Crystal Meth Anonymous meetings, based on Alcoholics Anonymous' 12 Steps or in-patient treatment programs. Short of that, therapists working with clients to create "harm reduction" plans may reduce dangers -- to the client and bystanders. Shernoff cites an example where an HIV-positive man intent on using crystal reported he stuck to his plan to ask each man at a sex party his HIV status and perform condomless sex only on HIV-positive men.

Crystal meth. It's a false friend. Be part of a community-wide effort to stop its deadly rampage.

Reach Deb Price at (202) 662-8736 or


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