Behind the door |  “Chemsex”: Try it and come back

Behind the door | “Chemsex”: Try it and come back

Every week, La Presse offers you a testimonial intended to illustrate what really happens behind the bedroom door, in complete privacy, far removed from statistics and standards. Today: Jonathan*, late 40s.

Posted at 4:00 p.m


Silvia Galipeau

Silvia Galipeau The press

Jonathan is HIV positive. Risky practices, he knows. he gave Thoroughly. He’s even hit rock bottom. Story of a 180 degree turn. Because yes, an exit is possible.

The proof: today the smiling, clear-eyed 40-year-old is involved in a sexual health organization. He was also keen to meet us while the 22nd International AIDS Conference is in full swing until August 2nd at the Palais des Congrès.

His war horse: HIV and the “use of stimulant drugs in a sexual context”, known as “chemsex”, often without protection. Why ? “Because in my case the two are closely related. »

Met in a small café on Rue Ontario, at a table a little off the beaten track, the man wears the hat of a confidant, sometimes that of a speaker. Or a happy mix of both.

This is a subject that is not talked about enough. There is a great lack of education and who suffers the most? HIV-positive people themselves …


So let’s talk about it: For his part, Jonathan came out around the age of 18, “in the early 1990s, when we were still talking about AIDS. […] It was really intense. Many people died from it, mainly in the gay community but not only. Prevention messages hung everywhere in the toilets of the bars. And in connection: “Of course that worried me.”

That was also his mother’s first reaction: “Okay, but I hope you protect yourself. »

He also had his first experience with a boyfriend before having a “beautiful love story” in his early twenties. “I was looking for my prince charming. I was very romantic. »

The story lasts three years. “I did the trick. […] The prince is not. » Jonathan then, and for the first time in his life, gives himself up to exploring the « right », as he says, and dares the « one nights » and other « sex, without commitments ». But be careful: “I was really serious then, willingness to take risks came later…”. In short, yes, it protects itself.

Mid-twenties, new “Prince Charming,” a story that lasts a few years and ends pretty badly. Very bad even. Think: Marriage proposal, then rejection. “It shattered all my illusions. »

Then our “big romantic” sank. Not halfway. He begins “researching drugs”. What exactly ? “Crystal meth, MDMA, GHB – but they didn’t call it the date rape drug back then! – and of course Viagra. […] He summarizes ways to disinhibit and stumble more. The word didn’t exist, but it was: chemsex. »

Basically, Jonathan ends up partying with only gay men, and it happens. The interest? “Forget, total surrender,” he replies with all sincerity. And then have fun. »

It increases your pleasure. Three to ten times stronger, more intense, longer. You can extend the trip to one night, two nights, three nights without sleeping…


And yes, he “stumbled”. Strong. Lived from the heights. Then stockings. In addition, “it would be the new crisis after AIDS”, our interlocutor points out and takes up his speaker’s hat here. Because it can lead to suicide. We don’t talk about it, but people go a long way. They can go as far as losing their job, their family, their money. It increases depression. […] It doesn’t take long before you see the bottom of the barrel…”

And he? We suspect that the condom will then have the edge. “In this context, where everyone is uninhibited, you don’t feel like arguing…” he confirms. Sometimes, yes, he protects himself. But sometimes not. Once too many, we understand. The fateful verdict came in the mid-1930s. “I thought of my mother. I felt like I had let them down…”

Luckily, antiviral treatments already existed back then. The disease is no longer fatal. “If I had been diagnosed in 1990, I wouldn’t be here to talk about it…”

Bracket: Not only is it no longer fatal, but its viral load is now ‘undetectable’ Basically, if Jonathan takes his medicine religiously, he cannot transmit the disease. end of bracket.

Nevertheless, the news stunned him at the time. Literally. Assessment: “I was even more disillusioned than I was. And I delved even deeper into drugs. It should have done the opposite, right? »

This time it happens every weekend. To repeat. “And not little three-hour drives…” And yes, his life, his job, his health and his (other) friends are starting to suffer.

And no, he doesn’t really protect himself anymore. Because in the group “everyone is already HIV-positive,” they say. “And it is true, he confirms, that there is a high prevalence of HIV in this community of drug users, but not all. »

He could have stayed there and he knows it. But where Jonathan had a “tilt” was when he saw people injecting themselves. “I have phew. […] That went too far…”

And yes, that was enough. Admittedly, “it didn’t happen overnight”. He had a relapse. Even a buffer relationship with a cocaine addict (“in my head it was less bad and almost funny too!”). Nevertheless, at the turn of the forties, Jonathan decided to change his life. Change of job, bonus.

The alarm signal had sounded. I managed to complete my journey…


He went back to college, graduated, and found a job in a world that was both related and opposite: intervention. “I put my libido back into my studies. […] I want to do good! »

Better: He also met a new man, a man who does not use, does not have HIV (“a nice surprise”), with whom he now lives a “rewarding” sexuality.

enriching? If you want to know everything, no, it’s not quite as “intense” as what he’s experienced in the past. Jonathan is formal. “It’s not that hot. […] We are less intense, more intimate. […] Except that there, on Sunday morning, having a friend make me pancakes has more value than intensity at any cost, more value than fireworks that don’t last that long, finally…”

* Fictitious name to maintain anonymity