All Richard Keane wanted was to feel good again.
Diagnosed HIV positive in 1990, he lived with the condition for 15 years, but in 2008, with his health in decline, he was forced to leave his job and his home and slipped into deep depression.
To escape his grim reality, he turned to the drug ice, unaware the cocktail of ice and his HIV medication could have fatal consequences.
“I don’t think I was in a state of mind to care about my own welfare. It made me feel vibrant and vital again and it was very easy for me to get hooked,” he said.
The spiralling trend of drug use in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community is one that has counsellors worried.
A La Trobe University study released in April shows that 9 per cent of people identifying as LGBTI had used methamphetamine in the past year, compared with 2 per cent nationally.
On Tuesday, a website will be launched to provide advice and information on drug use and sexual and mental health, focused on the LGBTI community.
The website, TouchBase, is a collaboration between the Victorian AIDS Council, the Australian Drug Foundation and the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations.
Victorian AIDS Council chief executive Simon Ruth believes it is the first online resource to deal with how drugs can interact with prescription medication and hormones.
“We know they require targeted interventions so websites like TouchBase play an important role in education,” he said.
“Now people in the LGBTI communities have a place to go if they need any information on the impacts their existing or potential drug use may have on their health.
“There’s not a lot of information out there on drug interactions with hormones; it’s something that we’re working to develop.”
Bill O’Loughlin, who is gay and also HIV positive, said drug use was a “part of life” for some people in the LGBTI community.
He said it was best for the community to talk about it “in our own way”.
“We need to shift from the silence, secrecy, taboos and shame associated with drug use because it is harmful,” he said.
“We need to know and talk about how to look after ourselves and others when we use drugs; for example, how to use and inject safely, and how to look after those who might get into difficulty,” he said.
For more information, visit touchbase.org.au