A methamphetamine support programme specifically for gay and bisexual men is opening its latest intake in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch this month.
ReWired, which is run by the NZ Drug Foundation, the Burnett Foundation Aotearoa, Body Positive and Odyssey, is a support programme that focusses on gay and bisexual men who use drugs to enhance sex, sometimes called chemsex or PnP.
Ben Birks Ang, Deputy Director of the Drug Foundation, says it’s a highly stigmatised community that suffers significant amounts of drug harm but has been underserved for years when it comes to support options.
“ReWired is a supportive and peer-led programme for men in this community who want to change their relationship with methamphetamine. It’s been really successful so far,” he says.
“75% of the men who came through the pilot programme reduced their psychological distress and methamphetamine use. That’s a really great result for a programme like this.”
Some ReWired participants say they had tried to seek help through mainstream support options but found them unsuitable as they had to lie about or hide their sex lives and use.
Nebbie*, a former ReWired participant, says that being part of a support programme designed specifically for his community is what made it successful.
“I felt so comfortable being amongst peers,” he says. “While their stories are different, there’s a massive underlying issue of intimacy and other key aspects in life that we struggle with. I found it much easier to open up.”
He says that ReWired helped him better understand and reassess his methamphetamine use and what triggered it, and he was able to share strategies with other people in the group.
Burnett Foundation Aotearoa Chief Executive, Joe Rich, says that having ReWired available for gay and bisexual men, which addresses the specific needs of this community, has already seen great success in reducing drug harm.
“Our communities who are using methamphetamine during sex have unique risks and behaviours, that are best approached in a non-judgemental, harm-reduction model designed to meet their needs,” he says.
Last year the programme received a grant through the Proceeds of Crime Fund, which has enabled it to grow and reach more people. In August, the eight week programme is starting its latest intake in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and Birks Ang says there are plans to expand to other parts of the country, alongside projects to provide better harm reduction information and to upskill the health and justice sectors to support the community.
*name changed to protect his identity.
The next ReWired programmes begin mid-August in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
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