“I WOULD see doctors and other [AIDS] health-care providers who I knew at some gay event like the Black Party. They’d all be higher than God. There was part of me that in one respect was almost envious. How can they do drugs and still have a successful practice? And then, of course, they didn’t. It eventually caught up."
~ David France [New York Magazine]
Denial is the classic symptom of crystal meth abuse, and denial river flows freely and deeply within bureaucratised PC AIDS organisations and practices. Certainly, at least where some AID$ Inc. nay-sayers are concerned, it is not unreasonable to suggest that part of their reluctance to paint HIV or "Tina" as the bright red demons they really are stems from their own, in Russell Westacott's words (see Dereliction of Duty), "realistic experiences". Because with each sexualised/fetishised/ eroticised/romanticised HIV campaign and how-to-use-meth-properly hand-book that emerges, those funded to educate on such major health risks often reveal themselves to be HIV and meth's most aggressive apologists, defenders and cheerleaders...
"Many heads of AIDS groups and activists have tumbled into [crystal] addiction, disillusionment, career crisis, or worse. After years of vigilance, many have recently contracted HIV. Having worked in HIV seems to be a risk for recent HIV infection."
~ Spencer Cox [Medius Institute]
Habitual abusers of drugs and practisers of unsafe sex
commonly occupy key roles in sexual health agencies, wherein denial and the desire to protect self-interests aligned with a stubborn refusal to face up to reality and the consequences of their often publicly flaunted, reckless behaviours can impact on their ability to make the right decisions and fulfil their assigned public service roles, potentially creating lethal conflicts of interests.
From 2005, the physically emaciating campaign officer of one leading UK AIDS charity who has always said no to meth campaigns was a regular visitor to the north London home of the then main supplier of crystal into the gay community where drug-fueled orgies often took place, while a leading New York AIDS-pioneer-turned-meth-addict contracted HIV, lost his homes and accumulated ten criminal charges and felonies stemming from allegations that he saw patients while his license was suspended for practicing while high; individuals eminently more equipped than the communities they symptomatically fail to make informed choices about safe sex and hard drug use...
In the UK alone, HIV charity representatives have fought in the High Court to defend the right of gay men to continue using immunosuppressive poppers, despite conclusive evidence existing to show that inhaling amyl-nitrate can facilitate HIV transmission; have vigorously rallied against legislation to hold those who recklessly and intentionally transmit HIV to others accountable for their actions; and, most recently, have given their Play Zone seal of approval to underground sex venues that comply with an unenforceable "code of good practise", each time banging the drum of political correctness.
Far from acting to benefit those whose health they are funded to safeguard, UK HIV charities have willfully and consistently undermined gay men's health, with key decision makers acting either to a hidden agenda or in their own interests.
"Poppers [are highly immunosuppressive and carcinogenic and] were proven years ago to be a major facilitator in HIV transmissions, and in 1996 I took my evidence to court in an effort to get them banned from retail outlets. I had not reckoned for the sheer force of vitriol from the HIV agencies who defended the right of gay men (i.e. themselves) to continue using poppers. In protecting their own sordid interests, HIV sector staff and execs have consistently rode roughshod over the health needs of those they are mandated to serve."
~ Cass Mann [Positively Healthy]
"The primary cause of Kaposi's Sarcoma in gay men could be their use of poppers."
~ Dr. Robert Gallo [Co-discoverer of HIV]
It was not until 2007, when science finally caught up with long available anecdotal evidence that poppers does increase biological susceptibility to infection - either by suppressing immune function or increasing uptake of body fluids - that the same agencies then had no choice other than to promote the risk of using poppers in magazine articles and via an awareness campaign.
Also in 2007, the UK's Terrence Higgins Trust devoted scarce HIV prevention funds to Hard Cell, a web site that describes - in the kind of graphic, upfront, in-your-face detail it refuses to lavish on its HIV campaigns - risky and extreme behaviours associated with "hard-core" sex. These include bondage ("Mummification immobilises someone by wrapping them tightly from head to toe, often with only breathing holes left uncovered... The kick comes from feeling helpless and struggling against restraints or making someone helpless and watching them struggle"); scat ("Like contact with the intimate body fluids of cum, spit or piss, sex involving shit can be a sign of intense closeness as someone is offering something that's come from deep inside them"); and felching ("A strong, 'piggy' erotic charge comes from breaking the taboos around cleanliness and health that come with taking into your mouth something that's been up another man's arse").
Such "underground" activities are commonly practised among a sub sector of socially withdrawn, emotionally conflicted and psychologically unbalanced individuals deep in battle with internal demons that feed on low self-esteem and who are compulsively drawn to extreme and often sadistic "pleasures" at drug-fueled sex parties and sex-on-premises venues such as those endorsed by THT's Play Zone. Among their number are often sighted AID$ Inc. UK staffmembers and volunteers.
Of barebacking, Hard Cell enthusiastically enthuses: "Years of being expected to use condoms has made not using them a taboo for some of us. Breaking taboos can have a strong erotic charge..." This language from the same sexual health charity which refuses to speak out against porn labels that exploit barebacking for a quick buck. THT argues that Hard Cell is designed to educate "curious" gay men about the pleasures and the dangers of hard sex and hard drug use. Yet the risks are thrown in seemingly as an afterthought, requiring a blink-and-you-miss-it click-through button.
The onus, clearly, is on the glorification, normalisation and, ultimately, mainstreaming of what most well-adjusted and mentally stable gay men would consider to be unacceptable and even deviant behaviours. More tellingly, many gay men progress to such extreme sexual behaviours only once they have been introduced to meth due to its unparalleled ability to erase inhibitions, making Hard Cell's emergence just as crystal started becoming rampant in the underground sex scene fortuitous, or even by design.
Underground sex is fuelled by low inner confidence and is often sadistic, sometimes violent, and has occasionally led to the death of the passive participant. It exists on the dark fringes of the gay "scene" and as such is covertly practised by a minority of thrill-seeking, often older men in search of the next, invariably drug-fueled sexual "high". THT's high-profile, taxpayer-funded launch of Hard Cell, however, brought such disturbing, pathogen facilitating acts above ground and into the mainstream gay scene for the first time; its coverage in scene mags like Boyz and QX serving as an open invitation and virtual recruitment campaign for their mostly under-25 readers. Obvious questions that must be asked include:
• How does Hard Cell empower gay men to protect their health and the health of others when it describes, in vivid detail, sadistic acts that are intended to disempower the passive participant(s)?
• Why is THT not funding web sites that teach and empower under-25s to build self-esteem and channel their energies into positive, fulfilling pursuits, or does such a blatantly obvious idea run counter to their business plan?
• How can those responsible for approving such "vanity" projects be seen to lead gay men's health and be passionate about, and have empathy for, others' wellbeing when they are acting only in their own sleazy interests?
Facing up to the unthinkable - that such double standards at the core of many sexual health agencies are contributing to a culture steeped in deceit and neglect, thereby fuelling the spread of the pathogens and correlated factors they are meant be fighting - means casting aside the pious cloak of false concern that they invariably assume, and seeing through the veil of illusion that protects and enriches them at our expense.
It also means looking frankly at our own helplessness, gullibility and willingness to unhesitatingly accept any form of hypocrisy without question. Where the message that is being subliminally transmitted is to carry on barebacking regardless, to use meth and other disinhibiting substances with abandon, and to indiscriminately transmit variant strains of HIV to others.
"If the owners of unsafe sex clubs are like tobacco farmers, the policy wonks at GMHC and the libertarians of ACT UP are like tobacco company spokesmen - all AIDS doublespeak and no common sense."
~ Gabriel Rotello [Author, Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men]
Nevertheless it is encouraging that, after years of inaction, the likes of, say, New York's LGBT Centre is finally emphasising, with its Silence=Meth campaign, "that no one can afford to be silent about crystal meth and its connection to HIV risk today". It would just be a lot more credible if such organisations apologised for their own silence and complicity in the rampant spread of meth among New York's MSM population from 2000, just as they should start taking some responsibility for today's appalling HIV infection rates.
"Almost four out of every five gay and bisexual men surveyed said they desire more educational campaigns about the risk of crystal meth."
~ Ryan Lee [Southern Voice, Atlanta]
A community nurtured and encouraged to respect itself instead of instinctively losing itself in soul-destroying drugs and sexual risk-taking is achievable with the right guidance, health education and preventive information, however much AID$ Inc. may try to persuade us otherwise via its tiresome PC spin and doublespeak. But an empowered, self-respecting community is also a healthy, vibrant one not in need of its services. And therein lies the conundrum that exposes the inertia, inefficiency and ineptitude that festers at the core of AID$ Inc. today: once compassion-led organisations that metamorphosed into a multi-million dollar industry which grows fatter and greedier feeding off the ever-deteriorating health of those it set out to save...