Bob Leahy: Hi D-J. Thanks for agreeing to talk to PositiveLite.com about Kontak. We’ve never heard of prevention programming before aimed specifically at gay men’s sex parties quite in the way you are doing it. Do you want to talk about how you identified the need for this kind of programming?
D-J. Sure. Kontak was established by AIDS Community Care Montreal before I was hired to re-launch the program last December, but with all my years on the scene, I’ve noticed that people like to meet and have sex either in groups or at least in front of others. Many party organizers count on people to bring their own supplies because they can’t pay for everyone that might come to their parties.
Are you finding more and more sex parties are happening in the Montreal area?
Why do you think that is then?
People that like sex in groups or like to party all weekend previously went to clubs and bathhouses to find partners. Nowadays, the internet has become the main meeting place and it’s become an easy way to advertise and get a bunch of men together. When using the internet for cruising you can avoid the restrictions that saunas have, you can meet in the comfort of your own home, and you can choose who you want to connect with.
So tell us a bit about what Kontak does. You provide safer sex supplies at wholesale prices plus free condoms etc. to participants and/or organizers, I think? Do you wait for them to identify themselves to you or do you approach party goers/organizers you know?
We have a few strategies but we definitely don't want to be intrusive. We use more indirect ways of reaching people such as putting up posters, and leaving postcards everywhere we go. We try to be present at big events that could be a good window to the populations we’re hoping to reach. We also network through word of mouth, ads in magazines, workshops, and online dating sites. Whenever I hear of someone organizing an event, I “KONTAK” them to offer our service.
And what kind of supplies can they get from you guys?
Almost anything that a sex shop offers, except for clothing. If we can get it for free, customers will get it for free. If not, we try to get the lowest price possible in the wholesale industry. People can get condoms from us and we’re not just talking about the freebies that everyone can get. We try to have many different types of condoms, because like shoes, for a condom to be comfortable it needs to be properly chosen.
So what items are you finding are most popular?
Lube, toys, dildos, vibrators, masturbators… those things are expensive when you have an active sex life so people like the fact that the prices are so low with us.
And people can pick them up from ACCM or you can deliver them, right?
We do both. One thing we need to make clear is that we do not make any profit with this service, so keeping an inventory of supplies is not an easy thing to do. We try to do some fundraising to increase awareness and also to raise money to keep a small inventory. We keep our most popular items in stock, such as condoms, lube, gloves and a few toys, but for the rest we order on demand. When I receive an order, some people are so excited that they cannot wait so they come directly to us at ACCM to pick up their order while others prefer to use our delivery service.
So you don’t actually attend sex parties when you deliver them do you? I’m guessing you just drop them off and leave?
It all depends on the request we get. If we get a request only for materials, then we do not attend the party. However, I can also be present as a network outreach worker in order to provide one-on-one or group interventions, as well as education on harm reduction, STIs, HIV, and safer drug use.
I see. So when did you start this program and how successful has it been so far?
I joined KONTAK last December but my predecessor Rodrigo started the program in 2011. The program has been well received by the community and we hope to increase our outreach now that we are becoming more and more well known.
OK, lets talk about what goes on. Am I right in thinking that a lot of sex parties nowadays are either very open to barebacking or organized with barebacking specifically in mind?
You’re right, some guys do organize specific bareback sex parties.
Do you think then there is an element in the gay community which disapproves of sex parties and/or barebacking and how would you address those people?
Well, let’s keep in mind that in a harm reduction framework, condoms are not the only option. That’s why we do not judge anyone and will gladly offer our services at bareback sex parties.
Your website is great – love the graphics - and very sex positive but I want to ask you a few questions about things you say there. In your “what you need to know section” you say “The best way for you to avoid getting HIV is to use condoms for fucking.” We and many others would argue that a much safer way is to have sex with poz guys who have a stable undetectable viral load. What would you say to that?
We have to remember that HIV is not the only sexually transmitted infection so the safer way to avoid other STIs is still using a condom. Also, being able to assure yourself that your partners’ viral loads are undetectable is quite difficult, especially in a sex party environment.
OK. You mention PeP on the website but I don’t think you mention PrEP. We know PrEP is very effective when taken correctly (it’s just been recommended by the CDC for use by U.S. gay men). Now even though Truvada hasn’t been approved for preventative purposes in Canada it is available and can sometimes be paid for so why not suggest neg guys look into PrEP either as a supplement to condom use or even as a better alternative?
It’s still new in Canada and we are currently looking at how to incorporate PrEP into our programming. It’s something that our organization has been talking about and considering for the last little while, despite Truvada still not being approved in Canada. Also, the referrals we give on our website (l’Actuel and Quartier Latin) are two of the major STI clinics in Montreal that can prescribe PrEP and who would be able to best guide the person considering that option.
D-J, we’ve bounced some difficult questions off you and we really appreciate your willingness to engage with us. Thank you again and good luck with the program.