The first ACON crystal meth forum was held last week, sparking intense debate between researchers and community members.

The panel of researchers asserted there was no causal link between crystal use and unsafe sex and an insignificant proportion of the community use the drug.

There are a lot of serious issues associated with crystal, but the sky’s not falling in, Sean Slavin said, speaking on behalf of the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society.

However, one attendee spoke of his partner’s suicide after crystal meth addiction. Another recalled a boyfriend seeking to inject on the day he was released from hospital following a crystal binge.

Crystal was described as unusually addictive compared with other drugs, conducive to unsafe sex and responsible for uncontrollable psychotic episodes. Others spoke of users able to use crystal without becoming addicted.

When ACON president Adrian Lovney summed up we shouldn’t be driving our response by anecdote, however, some were unimpressed.

Anecdotal evidence is a legitimate form of evidence, community member Norrie May-Welby told the Star. May-Welby said a number of friends had attributed their recent HIV seroconversion to crystal use.

I say there’s enough smoke coming from the hills for us to call the fire brigade, without us doing a research project just to check no-one is sending smoke signals, May-Welby said.

Attendee Peter Dragicevich told the Star addiction problems, and not any possible HIV link, were of primary concern.

I think ACON has been strangely reluctant to work on a hard-hitting campaign aimed solely at keeping people off the drug, he said.

Stevie Clayton, CEO of ACON, told the Star the organisation could have been clearer about the fact that we do value anecdote and people’s personal experiences but that clearly trashing the research doesn’t get us anywhere either.

Probably a lot of people feel a bit dissatisfied because we’ve had a whole lot of really different people -¦ who had really different wants and needs from the forum, she said.

Slavin said that talking about drug use in the gay and lesbian community had always been difficult.

I don’t have a professional response. I have certain ideas about that as an individual. But what troubles me is when that discussion gets closed down and somehow if you’re somebody who wants to question illicit drug use and its role in the community, you’re seen as a wowser, he told the Star.

Researcher Garrett Prestage agreed. There’s a real reluctance to talk about recreational drugs in the community as a whole, because then what has to happen is you actually have to question your own usage, he said.

The next forum will be held on Wednesday 3 November and is aimed at people affected by crystal and their friends. The forum will run from 6pm to 7:30pm at 9 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills.

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