Drugs, sex and safety

Club Safe York isn’t the newest lounge in the city but members are very familiar with local raves, the after-hour club and the bar scene.
Club Safe is a group of about 10 volunteers, age 18 to 27, promoting safe sex and providing information on the serious health risks of street drugs.
They’ve visited clubs and music festivals since summer, distributing condoms, and suckers with drug warnings labels.
Club Safe co-co-ordinator Michelle Lewis said it’s all about harm reduction.
“We see the big picture on how it will affect the community in the long run,” Lewis said. “York is getting to be a bigger centre and it’s getting to see the problems of Calgary or Edmonton.”
People are ignoring many dangers — AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies and drug overdoses, she said.
“There’s also a lot of kids mixing their drugs,” Lewis said. “I really think there needs to be some kind of awareness out there.”
Lewis said ecstasy is the most prevalent club drug in York. She’s surprised by the number of people who do drugs in York, but added it’s a myth that the clubs are filled with drug users.
“I think a lot of it is experimentation,” said Club Safe co-co-ordinator Julia Coe.
Club Safe wants to give people the dangerous facts about the drugs they use.
“Nobody touches on the club drugs. The schools don’t touch on club drugs. The police don’t touch on the club drugs,” Coe said.
She’d like Club Safe to eventually make presentations in schools so youth know the risks. Club Safe doesn’t preach. It’s a peer group with the straight facts so people can make informed decisions, Coe said.
Club Safe is also a front-line group that can point people in the right direction if they or their friends need help, for example, with drugs or STDs.
And Club Safe is not “a mole” in the club scene sharing information with authorities, she added.
“It’s a marginalized environment. It’s a marginalized population. With illicit drug use they want to make sure they’re safe with us.”
A mixture of peer pressure and lower inhibitions from alcohol can cause people to make dangerous choices, she said.
Drugs are also readily available because York is probably an important drug transfer site between Vancouver for distribution to Edmonton and Calgary, Coe said.
“They meet and everyone goes their separate ways.”
Club Safe members give out small plastic bags featuring a condom, lubricant and contact numbers for Club Safe and The Teen Sexual health Information Line.
Suckers are also handed out with health warnings about the drugs ecstasy, ketamine, speed, crystal meth and jibb. Ecstasy causes users to clench their jaws and sucking on hard candy relieves that tension.
Club Safe has spent an estimated $1,000 on supplies.
It operates as part of Life With Hepatitis Society and has relied so far on donations.
Members joined other health organizations educating the public at an outdoor music festival in Camrose last July and Alberta’s Own Hard Rock Weekend near Donalda in August.
Each month they visit the Euphoria dance club. At Halloween they held a condom blitz at The Catwalk and Club Manhattan.
“We got a huge, awesome response at the bars. We were out of condoms in about half an hour,” said Coe about the Halloween campaign.
Some people argue handing out condoms promotes sex, but when 35,000 gather for a huge summer concert, Coe said harm reduction can play an important role.
“There was an amazing amount of alcohol consumed. I’d rather have those people who would have sex have sex with a condom.”
For more information on Club Safe, call 346-8858 or e-mail clubsaferd@hotmail.com