Activists and experts have warned that Thailand’s stringent lockdown measures are leading to a rise in chemsex parties among queer men.
Thailand’s government closed LGBT+ bars and nightclubs in April as part of a lockdown to curb a third wave of the coronavirus.
But sexual health and queer activists explained to the Thomas Reuters Foundation that in doing so, lawmakers are setting up another public health crisis – a spike in chemsex cases.
Chemsex is the practice of having sex under the influence of certain drugs, such as GHB and meth. And campaigners warned that chemsex users risk slipping into addiction, overdoses – or worse.
In Thailand lockdown, chemsex is the ‘new normal’, say activists
“It’s now a golden opportunity for partygoers,” Beam, an adult entertainer, told Reuters of the increase in chemsex activity under lockdown.
Bean added that he’s going to more of the drug-fuelled gatherings than he did before, with office, bar and nightclub closures making the gatherings more popular.
Nikorn Chimkong, president of LGBT+ rights group the Bangkok Rainbow Organization, warned that chemsex is now the “new normal”.
The group has seen an increase in inquiries about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), an HIV-preventative pill. Chimkong attributes the rise to how PrEP is commonly taken before chemsex parties, he said.
Campaigners say their concerns over chemsex touch off the anti-LGBT+ attitudes many queer Thais continue to face. Police and officials often lack knowledge in chemsex, snarling investigations into its effects.
Service providers that offer chemsex counselling are also few and far between, activists say, and many people feel reluctant to use them, fearful of stigma.
While Thailand does not have any official data on chemsex, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, the capital’s local government, says 90 per cent of queer men who used its healthcare services have dabbled in chemsex.
Many of the men, its figures say, are aged between 20 and 40.
Similar fears over the lockdown giving rise to chemsex spikes were raised in Britain, where around two in 10 queer men broke shelter-in-place orders to engage in chemsex.