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Archive for September, 2006

Conversion Parties

Posted by pozlife on September 30, 2006

 

Some men who make a choice that they want to get the “bug” or the “gift” are so sure that they want to become HIV positive, that they want to have unprotected sex with as many HIV positive people as possible to achieve their goal. This process can be referred to as “conversion”, where a person wants to become “converted”, so they consider attending “bug parties”, also known as “conversion parties”.

Conversion parties usually consist of two types of party goer, the bug chaser and the gift giver. Some men may find these kinds of parties arousing and very erotic and there is definitely a kind of sensation within. On the other hand, others may find this kind of party disturbing.

Bug parties may be popular with bug chasers and gift givers alike, as the feeling of a bug chaser wanting to receive something and the gift giver wanting to offer something is the whole concept behind these parties. There is a lot of emotion involved, as the bug chaser has his reasons for wanting to become positive, whether it’s through the release of worry or the sensation and the gift giver may feel that he can offer something to the bug chaser to change his life.

There are different types of conversion parties and here are a couple of the variations:

  • Russian Roulette: Only a small number of members at the party are HIV positive and most of the guests are HIV negative. In most cases, the HIV positive guests are not known and an “orgy” takes place where guys have unprotected sex with everyone in the room and guests run with the show. At the end of the party, the HIV positive guests may wish to make themselves known so the HIV negative guests can find out whether they have been exposed to someone who has the HIV virus.
  • Gang Bang: One member at the party is HIV negative and all or most of the other guests are HIV positive. This is where the guests take turns fucking the HIV negative guy in a “gang bang” style situation, but fucking the guy one by one. With this variation, the HIV negative guest knows that he has a very good chance of becoming “converted”, as he knows that each person fucking him is likely HIV positive.

Conversion parties are risky and the level of risk can depend upon the type of party and various other factors. You can see how quickly the HIV virus can be spread through these parties, as guests are basically shared around the room and sharing any infections they have with each other. If a bug chaser does not succeed the first time, he may continue to attend conversion parties until he has converted.


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Mike Goes To The Baths

Posted by pozlife on September 29, 2006

— Notes for a piece never written.


Editor’s note: There are several interesting things about these notes:1) They’re a rare report on what was actually going on in New York City bathhouses in 1984.

2) They’re written by one of the “inventors” of safer sex.

3) They coincidentally contain tantalizing fragments of unwritten history: Randy Shilts’ And the Band Played On concentrated on the San Francisco gay male community’s internal and external battles in the early days of the epidemic, but largely ignored what was going on in New York City.

4) They make reference to a number of concepts central to Gabriel Rotello’s Sexual Ecology.


©1998 the Estate of Michael Callen

I cannot actually remember the last time I went to the baths in New York City before I was officially diagnosed with AIDS in the Summer of 1982. I am certain, however, that the last bathhouse I attended was the St. Marks Baths; but what I did and how I felt about it and what diseases I gave or got, I can’t recall. My last visit to this institution which played such a significant role in my life must have occurred sometime between December 1981 (when I was first diagnosed as being severely immunosuppressed) and say, March of 1982.

IMPRESSIONS:

Club Baths located next to Ortiz Funeral Home: how convenient. Like Sweeney Todd’s recycling center.

Entered. $17.50 ($10 to renew membership; $7.50 for a locker). Monday nite, 7:30 to 9:30. 20 people. About 8 blacks, 5 Hispanics, 2 Asians and 5 whites.

There is a bulletin board. No risk reduction information. Glass display case: aspirin, vitamins (HIM…for the sexually active male…); Ramses; petroleum based lubricant (to dissolve condoms?); poppers; cock rings, etc. Suggestion box.

In fairness, except for man in sling being momentarily fisted, I saw no unsafe sex. But everyone who was in a room was lying on his stomach; I saw no takers. [No][?] sex going on. Masturbation in porno room.

I toured the place hoping to find some info. None. I showered; I sat in jacuzzi; checked out steam room. Labyrinthine. I spoke to a black man in a room on the third floor–in the room where I first got fucked, by a man named Caleb, on a trip to NYC from Boston. Historic. Weird feelings that this was where it had all begun for me–getting fucked, that is.

The black man I spoke with was nice. Seemed about 40-45. He asked if I wanted to smoke a joint. I said no. I asked him if he lived in Manhattan. He said he lived by Geo. Washington Bridge. I said, is that 59th street. He chuckled. l68th Street. He works for Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.

I sighed real deep. He asked what was the matter. I said, “I feel weird. I hadn’t been to the baths in 2 l/2 years.” It was weird to be back. I blurted out: “Aren’t you worried about AIDS?” He said, no. I asked him why not? He said he could tell who was dangerous and who wasn’t. How? He said he could just tell: they looked tired, like they’d been into weird shit, fisting, drugs. He said he was selective. I asked him if he was limiting what he would do. He said, no, he still did all the things he always had. He said he hadn’t been to the baths in a long time either, but he just somehow felt safe; he said he could tell who was sick and he was selective. I felt weird about the irony. I wanted to blurt out: Can you tell about me? Do I look like someone with AIDS? I didn’t for a couple of reasons: I wanted to find out more…what he knew of AIDS and where he’d heard about it. I asked him if he read a lot about AIDS. He groaned and said, yeah, too much. But he’s stopped reading. It was too much. I asked him if he attended any GMHC forums. He said, no, but he’d attended one at Columbia Presbyterian which was “pretty comprehensive.” There was silence.

I told him I was gonna go and to take care. He got up to leave also and said that it was o.k. He told me to relax; he said I really wanted to be here or I wouldn’t be here and that all I needed to do was relax. He said I could come back to see him later if I wanted to. He was very nice.

I made more rounds.

[Another man] cruised me. Finally, I spoke to him in his room. I sighed. He said what’s the matter. I said, aren’t you worried about AIDS? He got frightened and pulled back. He said, “My English not so good. You got AIDS or something?” I said no (I made a quick decision; I thought if I said yes, he would totally freak out; he seemed very nervous). I said that I knew there were people with AIDS who were going to the baths and that some of them only had safe sex but others probably had unsafe sex. I’m not sure he understood much of what I was saying. I asked him where he was from. He said Israel. I asked him if they had bathhouses like this in Israel. He relaxed and laughed and said “No.” We talked about Israel and the [gay] movie from Israel I had seen (he hadn’t seen it or heard of it–I couldn’t remember the name…) Finally, after silence, I said “Take care; see you around.”

I was totally demoralized. I thought of my conversations with Dennis Altman. It really is a race/class issue. It is no accident that most of the people here were blacks and hispanics.

I thought about the importance of having the pamphlets and poster translated into Spanish.

I made one last round and discovered that in the orgy room, it was very dark and a fat man was in the stirrups being briefly fisted. Others started to come in to watch. The man fisting stopped. Others milled and malingered. One man dropped to his knees to suck another, but was pushed away. I left.

As I was checking out, I decided to ask the cashier if they had GMHC’s new safe sex pamphlet. He looked at me funny and said ‘Why?” I said I was just interested, that’s all. He sighed and started pulling out drawers, moving boxes, looking for the brochures. Finally, he found one and handed it to me, took my key and towel and I left.

I felt really weird about going. In the first place, I hated giving the $17.50 to these death factories. I thought, Jack Campbell was on the board of NGTF! Some political consciousness. I thought, the Club is where most out of towners–those who most need the information–are likely to come because CBC advertises so heavily. I thought, even if they don’t have the Safer Sex Committee Poster, GMHC has been saying that they’ve had the Physicians for Human Rights poster up in bathhouses for several months. Bullshit.

I thought finally about Roger Enlow’s refusal to require bathhouse owners to display the posters and brochures. He’s wrong, that’s all. What to do? Do I go to the straight press and blow the lid off? What is my goal?

Review: I have spoken wherever possible about the dangers of promiscuity in NYC. I took my own income tax return and published How to Have Sex in an Epidemic. GMHC refused to distribute it. The State of New York refused to distribute it. I attended the first secret bathhouse meeting over a year ago. I am on the Interagency Task Force and have emphasized the need for appropriate education. I am on the Bathhouse Subcommittee of the Institute’s advisory panel: should I ask for reimbursement of the $17.50?

The question is not whether or not to close; the question is how they’ll be closed!

WEDNESDAY: The East Side Sauna

I had never been to the East Side Sauna, largely, I suppose, because of its name. I had a West Villager’s chauvinistic disdain for anything even vaguely upper “east side.” I had lived for close to a year on Third Avenue and 77th and had been quite miserable. Looking back I can now see that I was unhappy during that period because I was constantly sick and desperately lonely, but at the time, it was easier to blame my malaise on geography.

Taking the E train up to 53rd street, I tried to distract myself from the pressing question of motivation by reading Gore Vidal’s Lincoln. Still, I wondered uncomfortably, why are you going to the baths? I can only speculate and try to draw the confusion which prompted me to tour the ruins of my health and youth. First, let me confess that there was indeed an erotic component. Although I was as positive as any weak-willed human can be that I was not going to engage in any sexual activity which involved the exchange of bodily fluids (how clinical!), I was on the one hand eager to have at least some sexual response; it has been so long since I’ve felt anything approximating genital sexual desire. But on the other hand, I have been publicly asking those who still go to the baths a question which I now asked myself: how is it possible to have any health sexual response in a setting in which you know–or reasonably believe–that others around you are engaging in acts which are killing them. In his inimitable style, Richard B. compared a gay man going to the baths for unsafe sex in New York in 1984 to a Jew who returned to Auschwitz to masturbate. In my apocalyptic railings against bathhouses in recent months I had been equally reductive: bathhouses are little more than death houses; to enter a bathhouse in 1984 is suicidal and arguably homicidal. So, I wanted to have some sexual response but I was, at the same time, horrified that I might. What would it all mean?

These subtextual issues aside, the reason that I stated to those who asked was that I was going to determine precisely how responsive and responsible bathhouse owners were being in terms of educating their clientele. After having spent 6 bloody months reaching consensus (how I’ve come to hate that word) on a risk reduction poster and brochure, it had finally been produced; gay pride weekend, a contingent of concerned citizens–including Roger Enlow acting not, he assured all ad nauseam, in his official capacity as director of the Office of Gay and Lesbian [sic] health but as a private citizen–had delivered posters and brochures to all the bathhouses and a number of backroom bars. I had heard, second hand, that all of the owners had welcomed these concerned citizens–one even asked them into his office for coffee–and had indicated with great enthusiasm a willingness to cooperate in community-based educational efforts. I was suspicious.

I had also had a fight with our good Dr. Enlow at a forum on the “bathhouse controversy.” I asked him if the City Department of Health was prepared to compel bathhouse owners to put up posters and to make brochures available. He muttered and sputtered and hemmed and hawed; much to my amazement, he daringly attempted not answering the question. After much slathering about civil rights, he responded to my rather simple question with “I won’t dignify that question with an answer.” Since, as I soon confirmed, San Francisco’s Health Department does require bathhouses and backrooms to make risk reduction information available to its patrons, I am sure that the most in the audience believed that by “ludicrous,” Dr. Enlow meant “of course we will require bathhouse and backroom bar owners to make information available.” Since I knew that this was not the case, I chose to press the point again, finally compelling Dr. Enlow to admit that he believed that even requiring owners to cooperative with community based educational efforts would be “inappropriate state intervention.”

I digress.

But a major part of my motivation for doing the grand tour was to expose the utter disregard which I believe/d bathhouse owners had for the health of their patrons. I did not believe that a majority of bathhouse owners would willingly cooperate with the community’s efforts to educate people about the risks of the kinds of activities which bathhouses make a living out of promoting. To cooperate would, in one sense, simply be bad business and for all the faults of bathhouse owners, a bad business sense is surely not one of them. But cooperation was patently ludicrous on its face. What owner would willingly put up a sign right at the entrance which effectively said: “Warning: What you have come here to do–what you have just paid $10 for–may lead to your death from a horrible, mysterious, disfiguring disease.” The poster is at once blunt and equivocal: it warns “Don’t fuck without a condom, don’t get fucked without a condom; don’t suck, don’t get sucked; and don’t rim,” which by process of elimination means that masturbation and fucking with condoms are all that are considered safe.

Although the story may be apocryphal, a bathhouse owner in New York was said to have said, in response to a suggestion made early in the epidemic that bathhouses be “modified” into community centers with dance floors, libraries, t.v. rooms, etc.: “A disco is a disco and a bathhouse is a bathhouse, and people choose to go to one or the other for very different reasons.” There is a certain street wisdom here.

We announced in “We Know Who We Are” that “The party that was the ’70s is over.” Walking the halls of this bathhouse, I was more than ever convinced that this is true. The point missed by many formulating “safer sex” guidelines–and I include myself in this criticism–is that what a subset of us eroticized in the ’70s was spontaneity and abandon. In addition to the 1,000 or so gay men who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice as soldiers in the sexual revolution, we have lost a way of life. The equation has changed, but we have not–the settings have not. A demoralization and anguish of untold proportions hung in the silence of the halls at the East Side Sauna. The image that struck me was one of little boys lost–each wondering around aimlessly, looking for mommy or daddy, holding on to his penis for what small comfort might be left in this hostile, frightening world. Each seemed utterly selfish in his despair: two men approaching one another in a hallway would, in an instant, search the face of the other for some sign that contact, comfort was possible and not finding it, would pass without a word onto the next candidate. The eyes seem to beg: is it you? Are you the one who will love me?

Perhaps I project. But perhaps not. The expressions haunted me. I had seen them–or expressions quite like them–somewhere before. It was only later that I remembered where: in the endless Life magazine photos of children of war. The look is one of innocence incongruously overlaid with a profoundly adult sense of loss–the loss of a culture, a way of life.

Anyway. Back to motives. It’s interesting that as I was walking to 56th street from 53rd street I passed someone that I know. He, naturally, asked me what I was doing on the Upper East Side. Instinctively, I lied. Furtiveness, as an aphrodisiac, is an old trick. “I’m going to see a movie.” “Oh, what movie?” he asked. “I don’t know,” I lied. “I thought I’d see what was playing.” I’m sure he thought me odd, but ultimately believed me. Why didn’t I just tell him: I’m going to the baths to see if they have a poster up?

I didn’t tell him because I assumed he would smirk and smile as I’m sure some who are reading this will do: “Yeah, and if you believe that…” It was simply too difficult to explain and it sounded so…cheesy. Spying? Voyeurism? Sex? Most people, I’ve found, want to believe the worst about others; it seems only natural.

* * *

The East Side Sauna is 70’s high tech–which means grey industrial carpet covering platforms and walls, tasteful indirect (is indirection the hallmark of gay style?) lighting and the artful use of mirrors. All bathhouses are labyrinthine and the image of experimental rats running a maze for some imagined reward only to receive an electric shock for a wrong turn would not be inappropriate.

Since there was no price difference between a locker and a room purchased for 4 hours (as opposed to 8), I purchased a room. Or rather a cubicle. 6 x 5, plywood walls (painted grey, of course), and the ubiquitous dimmer. I went from 7:30 to 9:30 and the place was packed. At certain bathhouses, you can get some sense of how crowded it is by counting the number of keyholders which have keys hanging from them (representing empty rooms) versus the number which have signature cards with check-out time noted on them (representing rented rooms). I counted 15 across times 6 rows, with some miscellaneous key holders for a total of approximately 100 available rooms (this excludes lockers). Of this, I would estimate that 60-65 were occupied. In short, the place was packed. After undressing, I headed for the “wet area”–which, compared to the facilities at other bathhouses, is a pathetic shower area approximately 8 x 8′, a steam room (without much steam, of course) and a dry sauna (without much heat) and a toilet where water drips on you from the ceiling. (A towel on the floor is supposed to soak up the dripping water, but instead is squishy and gross with urine.)

I showered (two of the 6 showers didn’t work–tradition must, after all, be upheld). I entered the steam room and chatted with a man who must have been 50. He seemed like a businessman. He was wearing his glasses in the shower. I told him that I had never been here before. I asked if this was unusually crowded. He said, no, that actually I had missed the peak crowd. The best time to come, he instructed me, was between 4:30 and 7:30 when the businessmen come in before going home.

I asked him if he was afraid of AIDS. He said, yeah, everyone is. I asked him if he had changed at all as a result. He said, he he makes his partners wear condoms. They don’t always like it but he insists. He also said he has cut down on the number. He was very friendly.

When I left the shower, this Asian man (drunk?) came up and started fondling my penis. I pushed his hand away and said “No thank you.” He persisted. I was more forceful: “I said, no thank you.” He persisted. I pushed his hand away again and said “I said, stop!” He looked at me and smiled and then said “your dick was too small anyway.” And turned and left. I thought here is the paradox: One second, you are trying to have intimate relations with a stranger and the next second you are insulting him. How gross! Women, of course, endure this kind of shit all the time when they tell men who are whistling and clucking and making suggestive remarks to fuck off. The men immediately say: Dyke. You were too ugly anyway. I wouldn’t fuck you if you were the last goddamn….

I recalled from the secret bathhouse meeting that the managers of the East Side Sauna had seemed particularly eager for any risk reduction information. They had asked for a copy of “How to Have Sex in an Epidemic.” And so I was surprised not to find any AIDS materials. In the TV room there was a Greater Gotham Business Council brochure and the hepatitis B brochure. On a bulletin board just outside this room there were various community announcements (an ad for tickets to an Alvin Ailey concert, the gay Front Runners, etc.) but nothing about AIDS. I found out subsequently that the East Side Sauna had not been given the materials, but still, they could have/should have had the GMHC NYPHR posters which GMHC has been claiming have been available for 3 months.

The only “unsafe” sex I saw was one man fucking another without condoms in a room with the door open. I heard grunts coming from behind the doors to two other rooms and I saw two men embracing in the hallway and then disappear into a room, but on the whole, I would have to acknowledge that there has been a significant change in behavior, judging from what I remembered about bathhouses from the past.

MIKE GOES TO THE EVERARD

On Saturday, June 31 [sic], I went to the Everard. I called up R. Berkowitz to ask him to go with me but he refused; he was candid. He was afraid he would be tempted to do something and he didn’t want to be tempted. Honest enough. But somehow I didn’t want to go alone. And I could hardly ask Richard Dworkin to go and not do something.

So I went alone. Although I’m sure that those who know me will find it difficult to believe, it is nevertheless true that I had never been to the Everard. I recall going in search of it once and being unable to find it. I must have been looking on 27th Street rather than 28th Street. Or else I must have looked between 6th and 7th rather than between 5th and 6th,.

Anyway, the Everard has the reputation for being the serious, get down, hot-sex-pig bathhouse in the city. The serious pigs go there. It was, true to its reputation, filthy. I recall particularly how greasy were the stair rails (but then that was true of all the baths). It is mostly concrete, painted an institutional grey. The smell of mildew and mold actually overtakes the smell of poppers and sex. This is quite unusual and owing, I’m sure, to its age. The interesting history of the Everard is recounted in the opening section of Larry Kramer’s Faggots and is the location of the infamous felching scene. To be unkind, my impression was: so this is where the dinosaurs come to die. The clientele was old and ugly. I saw the fattest gay man that I have ever seen, dead to the world and snoring with his door open at the end of a hall. In what must at one time have been an orgy room, a dozen or so men slept, also snoring loudly. I was startled to notice heterosexual porn pinups taped to the inside of the attendant’s station on the third floor, more or less confirming the rumor that the Everard is owned and run by straight men. My first impression was that I was lucky I had never discovered the Everard before because if I had, I would undoubtedly be dead now. It’s atmosphere is so…serious. The reputation is that St. Marks is full of poseurs while the Everard is for those who want to get down to action with others similarly disposed. I did notice that gentlemen who I considered to be more attractive welcomed, or at least did not rebuff, the advances of men who were, by any standards, much less attractive. Such unselective assignations would have been out of the question at St. Marks.

I was startled upon entering to see numerous signs from “The Management.” No drugs. We reserve the right to refuse admission to anyone… (Get exact language.) Most intriguing was the right reserved by the management to refuse admission to anyone with “a rash or open sores.” It also encouraged patrons, “in the interest of hygiene,” to shower “between contacts.”

Down in the steam room, the smell of mold and mildew were overpowering. The swimming pool was deserted and did not look particularly inviting. I wondered if anyone swam in it. In the steam room, one man was fellating another; the man being sucked was fingering the other’s asshole. Without a word being spoken, he allowed the man who wanted to fuck him to push and twist him into whatever position he found pleasurable. The man getting fucked actually seemed distracted and disinterested. Then, without the benefit of lubrication or even spit, the man being sucked began fucking the other man.

I CAN’T TAKE THIS MUCH LONGER. I’m depressed and grossed out.

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Bug Chasers and Gift Givers

Posted by pozlife on September 28, 2006

The world is becoming more familiar with the term “bug” and this is not a reference to the beetle kind of bug. This section is all about the bug, so you can learn more about it. So what is the bug all about? The word “bug” refers to HIV.

Some men have unprotected sex with other men who they believe are HIV positive so that they can catch the bug and also become HIV positive. A person who is seeking the bug is known to be a “bug chaser”. There are also some men who want to give the bug to others and infect them with HIV. A person seeking to give someone else the bug is known to be a “gift giver”.

Why would someone want to get the bug?
Some may wonder why someone would want to purposely infect themselves with HIV. The thought about a HIV negative person receiving HIV through bareback sex may be an arousing sensation for some, knowing that one guy is taking an extreme risk can be seen as a turn on. The same could be said about the HIV positive person, he may get turned on by knowing that he has the ability to give someone else HIV, or to change their life. This could also be seen that he has the ability to take something away from the other person. There are various reasons why someone may want to purposely become HIV positive and here are a few of them:

  • Worry: For many men, the worry of contracting HIV is one which makes them so concerned, that they feel sick. Every time they have unprotected sex, they wonder whether they have become HIV positive, should they get tested, what if they are are HIV positive and what about the next person they have unprotected sex with, should they tell them? HIV can take approximately twelve weeks after the infection has entered the body to show up in the system and tests, so some guys who are regular barebackers may not get tested each time they have unprotected sex and if they have been infected, this may not show up immediately. The thoughts running through the mind may be worrying, so perhaps some guys would rather seek the bug so they can put themselves at ease knowing that they no longer have to worry about becoming HIV positive and they can be honest with other men about their HIV status.
  • Natural: Some guys may become aroused by the sensation of having unprotected sex in a specific attempt to catch HIV. This could be the sensation of the rhythm of being fucked and the thought of the “charged” or “poz” cum transferring through from the gift giver to the bug chaser. Sex is a natural behavior and for a man and woman, the sensation of unprotected sex means that the man has the ability of giving the woman something unique through sex – a load of semen which has the ability to make her pregnant. This could be a turn on for both the male and female partners. When you look at bug chasers and gift givers, there is a similarity here in terms of “giving” and “taking” where instead of making the recipient pregnant, the recipient is potentially made positive.
  • Love: Love is something which is unfortunately lacking in the world today. Many gay men feel that they cannot love themselves, let alone love anyone else because they are gay. Just tune into any of the news reports around the world and you will discover that there are more stories about gay hate crimes or opinions by people about how being gay is bad rather than the nicer and more uplifting stories there are in our lives. Perhaps some men feel that they are worthless, unimportant and a burden on society, so much, that they don’t care about themselves or their health and they do whatever feels good to them, even if it means risking their health in the process. It is very sad that we feel that we cannot love another person and show intimacy and love for another person of the same sex. Each person is unique, there is nobody else like us on this planet, so it’s important to disregard any hurtful views towards gay people and be strong and show determination. Perhaps if we felt that we were loved, then more gay people would love themselves and in turn, take better care of themselves?
  • Risk: There are some things that provide a rush, things that maybe forbidden or dangerous and some of these sensations drive some men wild. Perhaps the thought of being exposed to a condition which has no current cure is worth the risk to some, the feeling of adrenaline knowing that the process of getting fucked and driven with “charged” cum is one which is worth it because the result of the feeling is more important than any side effects of doing so.

These are only some of the factors a person may consider when he decides that he purposely wants to contract or transmit HIV. When someone does something, they usually do it for a particular reason. Many people may be quick to judge someone who is a bug chaser or gift giver, however, people making judgements may not have taken a moment to delve into the issue seriously, they may have made a judgement without analysis, which is very easy to do.

Take a look at the issues raised above: worry, natural, love, risk. Do you see any similarity between any of these identifiers? Each issue is associated with emotion, so there are many factors which could result in the reason why one man may wish to risk his health by purposely contracting HIV. What needs to happen is for people to stop the judgement and offer some understanding and compassion. If someone makes a choice to purposely infect themselves with HIV, this is a choice that they have made and there would likely be a reason they felt was valid behind them making this choice. It is important that a person fully understands the outcomes and results of making this choice before they get involved in something which cannot be undone.

This article does not discuss the topic of those people who lie or purposely infect people without the other person’s knowledge. Some men will actively participate in bareback sex if they are HIV positive and will not disclose their HIV status or may lie about it to someone who believes that they are HIV negative. It is completely wrong to lie about HIV status and knowingly infecting someone else without them knowing they are being put at risk. This is a criminal action and something people need to be aware of, because it does happen.

Important: The webmaster of Bareback Resources does not encourage individuals to become bug chasers or gift givers. This article has been designed to highlight some of the issues which are happening and to provide an insight into why individuals would risk their health by wanting to subject themselves to the HIV virus. It is important for anyone who is considering bug chasing to think clearly about what they are doing and to weigh up the benefits and drawbacks of doing so prior to participating in such activities. Remember that you are in control of what you decide to do, so please make an informed decision using various resources which are available to you.


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Report: workplace grows more gay-friendly-HRC awards 100 percent score to 138 companies

Posted by pozlife on September 27, 2006

By David Webb Staff Writer
Sep 21, 2006, 17:51

Dallas lesbian Louise Young knows from firsthand experience how much of a difference equitable workplace policies and protections can make to LGBT employees.

“My own life journey has allowed me not only to observe but also personally experience the enormous difference good workplace polices mean,” Young said in a conference call during the Human Rights Campaign’s announcement of the findings in its 2006 Corporate Equality Index. “It makes for better employees and managers. I know this is true because I’ve lived it.”

The 2006 report on workplace benefits and protections for LGBT employees rated 138 major U.S. companies at 100 percent, the group’s highest score. The number is up from 101 in 2005 and up from 13 when the first report was issued in 2002.

Young said she believes the group’s annual report has driven the recent increase in the number of U.S. companies offering benefits and protections for LGBT employees.

“I’ve been a witness to great change in corporate America,” said Young, who is a senior software engineer in the Dallas offices of Raytheon Co. “Now, to have sexual orientation in a company’s nondiscrimination policy is standard business. Even 10 years ago, that wasn’t the case.”

Young said the findings are especially relevant to her because she lost a job in 1975 because she was a lesbian.

“I lost that job because, and only because, I was a lesbian,” said Young, who has been in a committed partnership for 35 years.

Daryl Herrschaft, director of the group’s workplace project and author of the report, said big companies appear to be competing to become the most gay-friendly.

“This report finds that early adopters of gay-friendly policies in various industries triggered a domino effect in a race for the top in several industries,” Herrschaft said.

Herrschaft noted that Raytheon Co. last year was the first aerospace and defense company to achieve a 100 percent rating. This year three more companies in the aerospace industry – Boeing Co., Honeywell International Inc. and Northrop Grumman Corp. – achieved the top rating.

A similar trend was seen among pharmaceutical companies, which saw an increase of three to eight companies achieving 100 percent scores.

Herrschaft said the automobile industry continued to “surge ahead in treating LGBT employees with dignity and respect.” Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp., Daimler Chrysler Corp. and Volkswagen of America Inc. shared the top-tier rating.

“This report shows these police have become a mainstream business practice,” Herrschaft said. “Companies are increasingly recognizing that applying basic business principles of equal opportunities and benefits to all of their employees makes them more productive and ultimately leads to a better product and a better bottom line.”

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the report shows the American workplace is becoming a far friendlier institution to LGBT employees than it has been in years past.

“This competition sends a clear message that corporate America is rapidly becoming a place of fairness,” Solmonese said.

The report also shows that 75 percent more companies than in 2005 prohibited discrimination against transgender employees, 64 percent more implemented at least one wellness benefit for transgender employees, 35 percent more extended health benefits to employees’ same-sex domestic partners and 14 percent more engaged in philanthropic or marketing activities directed toward the LGBT community.

Young said American companies are beginning to widely publicize their gay-friendly environments in internal and external publications, Web sites and annual reports to shareholders. That is helping improve the quality of life for all LGBT people, she said.

“My own life journey has allowed me not only to observe but also personally experience the enormous difference good workplace policies mean to LGBT employees,” said Young, who is the founder of Raytheon’s LGBT employee group. “Having worked at Raytheon for 28 years, I know the kind of difference a 100 percent score makes to employees.”

Five Texas-based companies scored 100 percent. They are AMR Corp., of Fort Worth, Dell Inc., of Round Rock, Freescale Semiconductor Inc., of Austin and AT&T and Clear Channel Communications Inc. of San Antonio.

Several Dallas-based companies were listed in the report with scores ranging from poor to good, but two area companies achieved scores of zero. They are Irving-based Exxon Mobil Corp. and Plano-based Perot Systems Corp.

Meijer of Grand Rapids, Mich., is the only other company to score a zero in the report.

The group surveyed 1,520 companies and was able to rate 446 of those. The information was gleaned from surveys, research of public records and contacts within companies. The report can be viewed at http://www.hrc.org.

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Bug Chasers and Gift Givers

Posted by pozlife on September 26, 2006

The world is becoming more familiar with the term “bug” and this is not a reference to the beetle kind of bug. This section is all about the bug, so you can learn more about it. So what is the bug all about? The word “bug” refers to HIV.

Some men have unprotected sex with other men who they believe are HIV positive so that they can catch the bug and also become HIV positive. A person who is seeking the bug is known to be a “bug chaser”. There are also some men who want to give the bug to others and infect them with HIV. A person seeking to give someone else the bug is known to be a “gift giver”.

Why would someone want to get the bug?
Some may wonder why someone would want to purposely infect themselves with HIV. The thought about a HIV negative person receiving HIV through bareback sex may be an arousing sensation for some, knowing that one guy is taking an extreme risk can be seen as a turn on. The same could be said about the HIV positive person, he may get turned on by knowing that he has the ability to give someone else HIV, or to change their life. This could also be seen that he has the ability to take something away from the other person. There are various reasons why someone may want to purposely become HIV positive and here are a few of them:

  • Worry: For many men, the worry of contracting HIV is one which makes them so concerned, that they feel sick. Every time they have unprotected sex, they wonder whether they have become HIV positive, should they get tested, what if they are are HIV positive and what about the next person they have unprotected sex with, should they tell them? HIV can take approximately twelve weeks after the infection has entered the body to show up in the system and tests, so some guys who are regular barebackers may not get tested each time they have unprotected sex and if they have been infected, this may not show up immediately. The thoughts running through the mind may be worrying, so perhaps some guys would rather seek the bug so they can put themselves at ease knowing that they no longer have to worry about becoming HIV positive and they can be honest with other men about their HIV status.
  • Natural: Some guys may become aroused by the sensation of having unprotected sex in a specific attempt to catch HIV. This could be the sensation of the rhythm of being fucked and the thought of the “charged” or “poz” cum transferring through from the gift giver to the bug chaser. Sex is a natural behavior and for a man and woman, the sensation of unprotected sex means that the man has the ability of giving the woman something unique through sex – a load of semen which has the ability to make her pregnant. This could be a turn on for both the male and female partners. When you look at bug chasers and gift givers, there is a similarity here in terms of “giving” and “taking” where instead of making the recipient pregnant, the recipient is potentially made positive.
  • Love: Love is something which is unfortunately lacking in the world today. Many gay men feel that they cannot love themselves, let alone love anyone else because they are gay. Just tune into any of the news reports around the world and you will discover that there are more stories about gay hate crimes or opinions by people about how being gay is bad rather than the nicer and more uplifting stories there are in our lives. Perhaps some men feel that they are worthless, unimportant and a burden on society, so much, that they don’t care about themselves or their health and they do whatever feels good to them, even if it means risking their health in the process. It is very sad that we feel that we cannot love another person and show intimacy and love for another person of the same sex. Each person is unique, there is nobody else like us on this planet, so it’s important to disregard any hurtful views towards gay people and be strong and show determination. Perhaps if we felt that we were loved, then more gay people would love themselves and in turn, take better care of themselves?
  • Risk: There are some things that provide a rush, things that maybe forbidden or dangerous and some of these sensations drive some men wild. Perhaps the thought of being exposed to a condition which has no current cure is worth the risk to some, the feeling of adrenaline knowing that the process of getting fucked and driven with “charged” cum is one which is worth it because the result of the feeling is more important than any side effects of doing so.

These are only some of the factors a person may consider when he decides that he purposely wants to contract or transmit HIV. When someone does something, they usually do it for a particular reason. Many people may be quick to judge someone who is a bug chaser or gift giver, however, people making judgements may not have taken a moment to delve into the issue seriously, they may have made a judgement without analysis, which is very easy to do.

Take a look at the issues raised above: worry, natural, love, risk. Do you see any similarity between any of these identifiers? Each issue is associated with emotion, so there are many factors which could result in the reason why one man may wish to risk his health by purposely contracting HIV. What needs to happen is for people to stop the judgement and offer some understanding and compassion. If someone makes a choice to purposely infect themselves with HIV, this is a choice that they have made and there would likely be a reason they felt was valid behind them making this choice. It is important that a person fully understands the outcomes and results of making this choice before they get involved in something which cannot be undone.

This article does not discuss the topic of those people who lie or purposely infect people without the other person’s knowledge. Some men will actively participate in bareback sex if they are HIV positive and will not disclose their HIV status or may lie about it to someone who believes that they are HIV negative. It is completely wrong to lie about HIV status and knowingly infecting someone else without them knowing they are being put at risk. This is a criminal action and something people need to be aware of, because it does happen.

Important: The webmaster of Bareback Resources does not encourage individuals to become bug chasers or gift givers. This article has been designed to highlight some of the issues which are happening and to provide an insight into why individuals would risk their health by wanting to subject themselves to the HIV virus. It is important for anyone who is considering bug chasing to think clearly about what they are doing and to weigh up the benefits and drawbacks of doing so prior to participating in such activities. Remember that you are in control of what you decide to do, so please make an informed decision using various resources which are available to you.


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When Love Hurts

Posted by pozlife on September 25, 2006


Domestic Violence Still Hidden in Many Same-Sex Relationships

 


“Dennis” was 22 when he got involved with “Alex.” Fun, caring, and into Cuban cooking, Alex seemed like Mr. Right. But four months into the relationship, Alex’s demons emerged when he showed up hours late to take Dennis to a party. Dennis commented that it was probably too late to go. Alex slapped Dennis and pushed him over a chair only to immediately apologize. He then cooked him dinner. Dennis’ chest still hurt the next morning; Alex had cracked his ribs. Dennis didn’t tell the doctor his partner had caused it. Regardless of Alex’s continued blow-ups, Dennis kept thinking that he could help him.

The two moved in together but things only got worse. Alex pushed Dennis down a flight of stairs, breaking his jaw in two places. He would try to force Dennis to have sex with him and if Dennis refused, he would beat him. In one instance, Alex ruptured Dennis’ spleen and in another, he beat him so badly that his intestines tore open. Dennis was in constant pain and fear. He lost his job because he missed so much work and Alex became the primary breadwinner, further keeping Dennis dependant on him. Finally, Dennis got up the courage to move to another state to live with his parents and get on his feet again. He still needs medication to deal with the pain of his injuries. And even after a total of 82 days in the hospital, no medical personnel ever asked Dennis if he was the victim of domestic violence (DV). Even Dennis never made the leap of logic that he, as a gay man, could be a victim. Consequently, he never thought to ask for help.

“Laura” was 28 when she got involved with “Nancy.” Because Laura was in graduate school and her lease was up, she agreed to live through the spring and summer with Nancy. Within three months, Nancy was belittling Laura’s family and friends, which made Laura uncomfortable. She made phone calls from work, to avoid Nancy’s questions. She stopped going out with her friends, even stopped going to movies unless Nancy came with her, and avoided talking about Nancy with her family, which caused her further stress.

Five months into the relationship, Laura helped a friend move something from her office to her house while Nancy was at work. When she returned home, Nancy was furious and accused Laura of having an affair. Screaming obscenities and throwing objects around the house, Nancy then spit in Laura’s face. Laura threatened to leave and Nancy began crying and told her “she didn’t want to lose her.” After another four months of “walking on eggshells,” Laura voiced relief when Nancy started having an affair. “Sad, huh? That you’re glad your girlfriend is having an affair. It distracted her and I moved in with friends.” Still, she was plagued with hang-up calls for another three months. “It was hell,” Laura said. “Here I was, an educated, middle-class woman from a family with no history of abuse or violence and I ended up in a relationship that was clearly abusive. On some level I thought I could help her. What I realized was that my safety was the most important thing in that instance. I also realized that anyone can become trapped in an abusive relationship.”

According to a 2000 study conducted by community-based anti-violence organizations in nine regions throughout the U.S., rates of violence in GLBT partnerships mirror rates in heterosexual relationships. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) discovered that of reported incidents, roughly 15-20 percent of gay male relationships become embroiled in domestic violence. Studies since 1980 suggest that almost half of women surveyed who identify as lesbian have been abused by a female partner. And the Portland, Oregon-based Survivor Project’s 1998 Gender, Violence, and Resource Access survey of intersex and transgender individuals found that roughly half had been raped or assaulted by a romantic partner. The NCAVP calls domestic violence the third-most severe health problem facing gay men today.

Elizabeth Slagle-Todaro is the Director of Outreach Services at the YWCA in Nashville. In a long interview with Freedom Press, she explained that 1 in 3 women will report being abused at the hands of a partner during their lifetimes. She is quick to point out that this number tends to skew toward heterosexual women, but notes that studies suggest numbers are concurrent in GLBT relationships.

Since 1979, the YW has helped thousands of women and children find healing and safety through its domestic violence services. Women who leave an abusive relationship have access to an emergency shelter where they can get counseling, life skills support, healthcare, legal advocacy, job search help, and case management. Children have access to their own program that helps with coping and communication skills. “One of the things that many people don’t understand,” Slagle-Todaro says, “is that domestic violence is not just about physical abuse. It can include emotional and psychological elements that are just as damaging as physical violence.” For these reasons, she notes, “some people may not realize that they are, in fact, in an abusive relationship with someone because their partner doesn’t physically harm them.” Also, she says, “there are times in the relationship that are very good. And the victim may genuinely love her partner and vice versa. The partner may be very caring and loving at other times. But a healthy relationship does not have the constant threat of a ‘blow-up’ hanging over it.”

She lists abusive and controlling patterns of behavior in which your partner might engage that are part of a cycle of domestic violence: embarrassing you with bad names or put-downs; controls what you do, who you see or talk to, and where you go (“checking in” all the time); makes all the decisions; tries to control money in the relationship; always seems to know what’s best for you; withholds affection or punishes you with a “silent treatment”; withholds your medications or puts you in situations that endanger your health; breaks or steals your things; becomes jealous, sick, or needy when you try to spend time away or with family and friends; tells you you’re a bad parent or threatens to hurt your children; wakes you up in the middle of the night to argue with you; intimidates you with weapons; threatens to kill him/herself; threatens to kill you; hurts or threatens to hurt your pets.

She points out that GLBT relationships caught up in a cycle of DV share many of these characteristics with heterosexual partnerships, including forced sex, but there are some unique concerns. For example, your partner may threaten to out you to your family or at work or may threaten to disclose your HIV status. “Because of homophobia in larger segments of society — especially in some regions of the country – and a lack of social services and resources,” Slagle-Todaro says, “threats like these are frightening to GLBT victims of DV.”

Indeed, DV in GLBT relationships has not been examined with anything near the thoroughness that heterosexual partnerships have. The NCAVP acknowledges the unique role of gender inequality in DV, but does not believe that the former is intrinsic to the latter. In other words, power differentials can be expressed through economic sufficiency, class, race/ethnicity, education, social background, and health status. It’s important to realize that DV always stems from a power differential. Other reasons that DV in GLBT relationships remains a problem include a widespread belief that DV simply doesn’t occur in these partnerships. Other problems include poor or inconsistent law enforcement response and homophobia among officers. GLBT people have no access to family courts so most DV cases for them are adjudicated in criminal courts, which are not set up like family courts are. There’s a decided lack of accessible and sensitive services, especially for gay men and transgendered individuals, since most facilities deal with heterosexual violence and are thus geared toward women.

On a recent visit to the local shelter, I asked Outreach Director Slagle-Todaro whether she saw many lesbians utilizing the YW’s services. She said that the YW makes it a point to use GLBT-inclusive language in its publications, information packets, and presentations, regardless of whether the audience might find that offensive. She also said that yes, lesbians do use the services and shelter; there’s a wing for women without children and a wing for women with children. With regard to gay men or abused heterosexual men (roughly 4-5 percent of heterosexual DV cases), Slagle-Todaro expresses some frustration because there aren’t as many resources for them and that’s part of why GLBT DV is such a well-kept secret. Most of the services are geared toward heterosexual women. She sees this changing, however, as organizations like the YW seek to educate the public about the full range of DV in our society.

I then ask her about resources for people who realize that they are abusing their partners. She said that batterers are welcome to call the crisis line and the YW will refer them to a certified batterers’ intervention program. She notes that “anger management” classes are inappropriate for men and women who batter because DV is not about anger. DV is about power and control and batterers, like victims, need to understand that and take responsibility for their actions so that they, too, can heal. “We don’t judge,” she said. “Anyone who recognizes their role in a cycle of violence at home can get help and we’re here to provide that help or refer them to someone who can.”

The program at the shelter is 90 days, with the goal to get women on their feet and into transitional housing or other safe, sustainable living options. The shelter itself is clean, quiet, and includes play facilities for children and lounge/work areas for the women. It’s bright and feels safe. I heard children laughing and playing and the women I spoke with seemed happy to be there. Slagle-Todaro says that sometimes the shelter is fuller than at other times and that there really is no particular “season of violence.” If the facility is full and someone calls needing assistance, “we are on the phone immediately to find them a safe space. When someone finally decides to leave an abusive relationship, that can be a very dangerous time for them, which is why it is so important that we have a network of other resources in place to help.” I ask her if she ever feels burned out. She leans back and sighs, then smiles. “I have good days and bad days, like anyone else. But I love what I do. It’s important that people know that we’re here and we can help and that GLBT people are welcome here as well.”


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Louisiana Legislator Presses got HIV Tests in Prisons

Posted by pozlife on September 24, 2006

At a meeting of the House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice in Baton Rouge on Thursday, Rep. Austin Badon (D-New Orleans) said he plans to introduce a bill requiring HIV and hepatitis testing for all Louisiana prisoners. The measure, which would affect 38,000 state inmates in custody and 15,000 who pass through the system each year, is identical to HB1166, which Badon filed in this year’s session but did not push. He asked the committee to study the issue so that he can file a bill for the legislative session that starts April 30.

A Legislative Fiscal Office analysis of Badon’s previous bill showed the proposed law would cost the state about $14 million for testing and treatment in the first year and $17 million the second year. The costs would then level off to around $11.2 million a year, said analyst Kristy Freeman.

The measure would contain language requiring prison officials to segregate HIV-positive inmates, and it would give staff the right to use “reasonable force in cases where an individual refuses to submit to [the] testing required.” “Public-health issues far outweigh” individual prisoners’ privacy issues, Badon noted.

Badon said he plans to work with Richard Stalder, Department of Public Safety and Corrections secretary, and other officials to lower testing and treatment costs. Stalder told the committee he could test all inmates if enough money was approved by the legislature.

Dr. Kevin Stephens, director of the New Orleans health department, told the panel the state should aim to reduce new HIV cases among inmates by 50% in five years. “The only way we can get our arms around AIDS cases is to reduce the number of new cases,” he said.

Stalder added that various state agencies are trying to procure federal dollars to finance HIV and hepatitis prevention programs in prisons. “Education is the key,” he said.

[This summary provided by the CDC National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention | Times-Picayune (New Orleans) | September 15, 2006 | Ed Anderson]


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Uganda Drafts Bill to Execute HIV Infectors

Posted by pozlife on September 24, 2006

The incidence of HIV-positive adults sexually abusing Ugandan children is rising, prompting lawmakers to draft a bill calling for offenders who knowingly infect minors with HIV to be executed.

The bill is one of many under discussion by parliament in a bid to curb the country’s widening AIDS epidemic. Already one in 10 Ugandans has HIV disease. While previous bills have been drafted and then shelved, Elioda Tumwesigye, who chairs the parliamentary committee on HIV, expressed confidence the new measure would pass.

“There is a big concern about people who infect others with HIV,” said Joseph Kakooza, chairman of the Uganda Law Reform Commission, during an August presentation of a brief on the draft bill. “In some countries if an HIV-positive person knowingly infects another, he or she is charged. In some countries such people are referred to as murderers.”

The draft bill specifically targets those who infect children through sexual abuse. If passed, any HIV-infected person who performs a sexual act with a person under age 18, with or without consent, would be charged with “aggravated defilement.” If convicted of the felony by the high court, the offender could face death.

Human rights groups call the bill off-target and say more efforts should go toward AIDS awareness campaigns. They also worry the bill could drive sex offenders underground, since an African Network for the Prevention and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect report found 90% of alleged perpetrators were close relatives. Many parents could choose to keep abuse cases out of the courts for fear of subjecting relatives to death, they argue.

[This summary provided by the CDC National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention | Inter Press Service | September 13, 2006 | Evelyn Kiapi Matsamura]


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Many ‘Straight’ Men Have Gay Sex

Posted by pozlife on September 19, 2006

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Nearly 10% of Self-Proclaimed ‘Straight’ Men Only Have Sex With Men


 
 

Sept. 18, 2006 — Nearly one in 10 men who say they’re straight have sex only with other men, a New York City survey finds.

And 70% of those straight-identified men having sex with men are married.

In fact, 10% of all married men in this survey report same-sex behavior during the past year.

This means safe-sex messages aimed at straight and gay men are likely missing this important subgroup, suggest Preeti Pathela, DrPH, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and colleagues.

“To reduce the burden of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV infection among men who have sex with men, it is of utmost importance for [health care] providers to take a sexual history that ascertains the sex of a partner,” Pathela and colleagues report. “Asking about a patient’s sexual identity will not adequately assess his risk.”

Straight Men Who Have Sex With Men

In 2003, Pathela’s team performed telephone interviews with nearly 4,200 New York City men. They conducted the interviews in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian; a translation service helped with interviews in Greek, Korean, Yiddish, Polish, and Haitian Creole.

In nearly every study of sexual behavior, the percentage of men who report sex with men is higher than the percentage of men who report being gay.

So Pathela and colleagues first asked the men if they were bisexual, gay, or straight. Then they asked about specific sexual behaviors.

Some of the findings:

  • Straight-identified men who have sex with men report fewer sex partners than gay men.
  • Straight-identified men who have sex with men report fewer STDs in the past year than gay men.
  • Straight-identified men who have sex with men are less likely than gay men to report using a condom during their last sexual encounter.
  • Straight-identified men who have sex with men are more likely to be foreign born than gay men.

Also, a man who says he is straight but is having sex with other men is more likely to be married than a straight man who has sex with women, according to the survey. Only 54% of the men who say they’re straight and have sex with women are married, compared with the 70% marriage rate among the men who say they’re straight but have sex with men.

Pathela and colleagues note that because they report fewer STDs and fewer sex partners than gay men, straight-identified men who have sex with men may think they are at lower risk of HIV and STDs. This isn’t necessarily so.

The men with whom these straight-identified men have sex may themselves have multiple sex partners and elevated STD and HIV risk. The low rate of condom use makes the straight-identified men vulnerable.

“Prevention messages should focus on the activities that pose risk — for example, unprotected receptive anal sex — and should not be framed to appeal solely to gay-identified men,” Pathela and colleagues suggest.

The findings appear in the Sept. 19 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.


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The crystal party is over

Posted by pozlife on September 18, 2006

More addictive and destructive than alcohol or marijuana, crystal meth has become the drug of choice for gays. We need to do more than just acknowledge this is true. We need to take action

By Jerome Cleary

An Advocate.com exclusive posted August 24, 2005

Newsweek magazine recently gave national cover exposure to the deadly horrors of America’s most dangerous drug, and we now cannot escape the reality of crystal meth.

The most horrifying part of the article was the map of the United States showing areas with the most rampant use and how badly the crystal meth epidemic is hitting us.

Years ago our common battles were booze, cigarettes, and pot. Today we are faced with prescription painkiller abuse, heroin addiction, and now methamphetamine abuse.

But we are not just talking simple abuse. In West Hollywood, Calif., we have an epidemic of crystal-meth users. Let’s not kid ourselves. Ask anyone who has ever been online in the middle of the night: The Internet is filled with gay men who have been tweaking all night long who go to online chat rooms looking for PNP, which is shorthand for “party and play.” This goes hand in hand with gay men who want to have bareback sex.

How has this happened? Even in a tony town like West Hollywood, where we have had town hall meetings to talk about combating crystal-meth use, we do not have a handle on this epidemic. Just like the rest of the country.

About five years ago the L.A. Weekly newspaper had an article about the Internet, reporting that the number of people who shopped online was highest between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. These numbers had quadrupled in a four-year span, from 1996 to 2000. What the article’s author did not cover-or probably even consider-was the all-night tweaking people, high on crystal meth, who had gone online to solicit partners.

One of the most striking characteristics of this epidemic of drug abuse is that the demographic includes all ages, which is even more horrifying.

When I attended New York University, crack, or rock cocaine, was just beginning to peak. I would come home from work to my third-floor walk-up apartment in Hell’s Kitchen and find young adults about my age smoking crack at the front door.

I would say to them, “You can’t do that here.” One time a young woman responded, “We’re almost finished.”

Crack vials littered my apartment building’s front steps, and I would call the crack hot line listed in the New York Post to have the police clear the street.

But today young and middle-age people are doing crystal meth throughout the country. There is no universal hot line to call to clear the nation’s streets. So how do we address a problem that is everyone’s dirty secret? When I say “everyone,” I really mean that somehow we are all responsible. Don’t we all have a responsibility to tell someone, to confront someone online about their lives, their health, and their addiction? Do any of us have the need to help anyone when the user is a meth-head?

I have watched acquaintances bottom out on booze and pot. But booze and pot seem so tame compared with crystal meth today. Usually a sane person gets away from a crystal-meth user as fast as he can, since trying to help can turn violent.

Five years ago on my cable TV show I interviewed Kathy Watts, the executive director of the Van Ness Recovery House. She told me that crystal meth is an attractive drug because it can suddenly charge you up to go all night after working all week. The drug gives you the energy to party all night long.

After all, we are bombarded through television, advertising, and pop culture to want the “maximum,” what’s “new and improved,” what’s “stronger,” what’s “double strength, the “ultimate,” the “extreme.

That is exactly why the drug of choice today is one that can lift you higher, faster, and deliver quick results. But the cost for this ultimate high is a catastrophic and tragic crash.

We’re all in this together. It’s time for each of us to take action, get involved, confront users, educate would-be users, and get a grip. The party is over.

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