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Archive for November, 2006

Meth + Protease Drugs = Danger

Posted by pozlife on November 29, 2006

How a chemical combo can lead to fatal consequences

By Bob Adams

Combining protease inhibitors with crystal meth can lead to meth overdoses. Protease drugs and meth are broken down by the same liver enzyme, researchers explain, but the enzyme works first on the anti-HIV medications. This allows meth to build up in the bloodstream to levels three to 10 times higher than if it were broken down immediately, which can lead to a potentially fatal overdose. The risks are especially high, researchers warn, with Norvir and Rescriptor.

How crystal meth changes the brain and leads to cognitive loss

Crystal methamphetamine can cause brain structure changes in HIV patients, leading to a higher risk of impaired cognitive functions, according to researchers at the University of California, San Diego. Brain scans showed that meth use increased the volume in portions of the brain linked with understanding one’s surroundings, motor function, and motivation. The greater the size increase, the more significant the loss of cognitive function. Because HIV itself can shrink other key parts of the brain that control thought, reasoning, memory, and learning, a combination of HIV infection and meth use could result in significant brain changes and greater chances for cognitive loss.

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It Does A Body Bad

Posted by pozlife on November 29, 2006

Crystal use can begin a chain reaction that can take users past the point of no return

By Bob Adams

Crystal meth use can cause two key bodily changes and lead to one significant behavioral change that speeds development of drug resistance.
Cellular Death: Meth use can stimulate the secretion of a protein called tumor necrosis factor, which triggers CD4 cells to self-destruct. HIVers already have higher levels of tumor necrosis factor than uninfected individuals.
Metabolism: Meth can cause anti-HIV drugs to be eliminated from the bloodstream too quickly. HIV can easily mutate resistance against the low levels of drugs that remain in the bloodstream.
Adherence: Meth use can lead to missed antiretroviral doses, which in turn can lead to drug resistance and treatment failure.

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Life Or Meth

Posted by pozlife on November 28, 2006

After contracting HIV while abusing crystal meth, a couple of HIVers have made it a mission to make sure others are aware of the potentially deadly consequences of the of the illicit drug

By Bob Adams

Jay Dagenhart pulls no punches when discussing how he contracted HIV. “It was crystal,” the 38-year-old says of his five years of abusing methamphetamine, a highly addictive stimulant popular for its high-energy rush and enhancement of sexual activity.
“I went to bathhouses. I barebacked. I sold my body in my addiction. The reason I am HIV-positive today is because of what I did while high on crystal,” laments Dagenhart, who became a national face of the meth epidemic after discussing his experiences on The Oprah Winfrey Show in November 2005 and again in March of this year. But long before then, Dagenhart says, it bothered him that the facts behind how meth use was fueling HIV infections were treated as a dirty little secret that no one ever addressed. “We weren’t talking about it like we are now,” he says. “We weren’t talking about how people were seroconverting on this–like I did. We weren’t talking about how people’s lives were being taken over by this–like mine was. After I stopped using and got my life back on track, I felt like I needed to start some of those conversations.”
Turning the Tables
Getting harm-reduction messages back into the heads of drug users and warning nonusers of meth’s dangers became Dagenhart’s mission in life–and are the goals of crystal meth task forces that are forming in several U.S. cities. In November 2004, Dagenhart and Mike DiPilla founded the Philadelphia Crystal Meth Task Force, and Dagenhart served as its president until this past spring. Similar task forces have formed in major U.S. cities–including Atlanta; Chicago; New York City; Palm Springs, Calif.; Philadelphia; and Washington, D.C.–to help fight the rising use of the drug, particularly among gay and bisexual men.
A key component of these groups’ early efforts is addressing the links between meth use and HIV, including the adverse health effects the stimulant can have on HIVers, says Dan Carlson, cofounder of New York City’s Crystal Meth Working Group. “The more people binge,” he warns, “the more they don’t take care of themselves. They don’t eat. They don’t sleep. They don’t do any of the things they need to do to stay healthy.”
That includes failing to adhere to antiretroviral drug regimens, experts caution. HIVers must maintain nearly perfect drug adherence for their meds to remain effective. Missing even a few doses–which is easy to do during a meth-fueled weekend of sex and partying, Carlson says–can lead to treatment failure and the development of a drug-resistant infection.
HIVers also may engage in unprotected sex–often with multiple partners they’ve met online or at bathhouses and sex clubs–while high on the drug, Dagenhart says, exposing others to the virus and putting themselves at risk for infection with multiple strains of HIV. If they’ve developed drug-resistant infections, they can pass those along to others as well.
How Bad Is It?
Studies have shown that meth use is becoming more commonplace–particularly among urban gay and bisexual men. In Chicago, 11% of gay men who were surveyed reported meth use within the prior year; one quarter of those who were surveyed in New York City used the drug during the prior six months. An informal survey of gay and bisexual men in Philadelphia that was conducted by the Philadelphia Crystal Meth Task Force revealed that about 20% of the men currently use meth, 40% had used it in the past, and 70% have friends who use the drug.
More alarming still, some studies have provided data indicating that gay men who use meth are significantly more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior–and are as much as three times more likely to be HIV-positive than nonusers. “Barebacking [having sex without a condom] was my agenda” while high on meth, Dagenhart says of why HIV rates are soaring among drug users. “It’s more erotic, more of an adrenaline rush. Meth pushes the idea of safer sex right out of your brain.”
But despite these obvious risks, safer-sex messages either fail to resonate with meth users or are quickly forgotten during drug-fueled sexual encounters, says Dagenhart. “Take me, for example,” he notes. “I had all the information. I knew all of the reasons why I should be having safer sex. But while you’re doing the drug, you just don’t care.” DiPilla, who says he also contracted HIV through unprotected sex while using crystal meth, agrees: “When I was high, you could talk about safer sex to my face and I would blow you off.”
Working on the Problem
Instead of just handing out condoms and urging people to practice safer sex, Dagenhart and other activists also are focusing on the root causes of meth abuse. For HIVers, they say, meth-induced feelings of well-being and acceptance can provide a temporary escape from the difficult realities of living with the disease. In addition to its libido-increasing effects, meth also can counter feelings of isolation, depression, shame, and low self-esteem that gay men may experience because of their sexual orientation. Crafting healthy solutions to these psychosocial problems could help allay the negative feelings that lead many men and HIVers to turn to the drug in the first place or to keep going back for more, community leaders say.
“We also have to come up with new models to teach gay men how to get involved with their communities and create new ways for them to be loving, healthy, responsible men, as opposed to the catty, vicious, self-hating people we too often see,” Dagenhart urges. “And too many young gay men are still being mentored in gay communities on their knees or backs. This has to stop. There have to be better ways to ‘be gay’ than just drugs and sex.”

 

 

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In Saudi Arabia, AIDS still a stigma despite government, activist actions

Posted by pozlife on November 28, 2006

The 35-year-old mother of six flinched when asked if she has told her children that she and her husband were diagnosed with AIDS four months ago. She never will, she said. “Can you imagine what their reaction will be? We’ll be treated like pariahs,” said Umm Muhammad, a Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, resident who declined to use her full name to protect her privacy.
Saudi Arabia’s government has become more open about AIDS in recent years, publishing statistics about the number of infected Saudis, providing them with free medical care, and urging compassion. But in this deeply conservative kingdom, strong social stigma is still attached to the disease, which most people link, correctly or not, to acts forbidden by their religion and sometimes punishable by death: homosexuality, premarital sex, and adultery.
That complicates the work of health workers and activists who advocate spreading full awareness about protective measures. They ask, How can an activist educate people about safe sex in a culture that demands men and women abstain from premarital sex?
The dilemma is that many Saudis, mostly men, do have sex before marriage as well as extramarital affairs, especially while on trips to Arab or Western countries, activists say. Some contract the disease and then infect their wives.
According to Health Ministry statistics, 78% of HIV/AIDS cases in the kingdom are a result of sexual contact. “If we were to say ‘Use condoms’ to everybody, it’s like giving them carte blanche to go out and have sex,” said Rami al-Harithi, a 30-year-old activist who contracted HIV during a blood transfusion when he was 8.
Al-Harithi, from the holy city of Mecca, is one of the first Saudi HIV-positive patients to come out in the open and says people are sympathetic to him because of how he contracted the disease. Later this week, he says, he will speak frankly at a seminar to mark World AIDS Day that male high school students have been invited to attend.
“I will tell them, ‘You should abstain from sex. But if you travel and cannot hold yourself, there’s something called a condom that you should use,'” said al-Harithi. “I’m sure some people will be upset at this kind of language, but I don’t care,” he added. “My aim is to protect people.”
But many Saudis disagree with al-Harithi, saying recommendations for safe sex among married couples, such as one posted on the Health Ministry site, are as far as activists or the government should go.The site says: “There are simple and effective ways to protect against the disease and the most important one, which is more important than any vaccine that may one day be discovered, is clinging to moral, social, and religious values that ban dangerous sexual conduct and that limit sex to marriage.”
Of the 10,120 people who have tested positive for HIV in the kingdom since the first case was identified in 1984, 2,316 were Saudis, according to figures released by the Health Ministry in August, the Arab News reported. That figure is up from 7,804 in 2005, the paper quoted Tarek Madani, adviser to the health minister and consultant for contagious diseases, as saying.
Almost 80% of AIDS cases in the kingdom are in the age group, 15–49, while the percentage among children is 6.4%, the report said. The government sponsors public awareness campaigns, such as one it plans for this week to mark Friday’s World AIDS Day that includes lectures, 500,000 phone text messages, billboards, and other activities under the slogan “Together for the sake of children. Together against AIDS.”
The government also treats Saudi AIDS patients for free, at a cost of $2,700 a month. Expatriates are sent back home after an initial treatment. A few AIDS societies—the first ever—also are being set up and awaiting government permit, including the Al-Husna Society. One of its members, Laila Taha al-Dulaymi, said the group plans to financially help AIDS patients and their families and tackle issues like joblessness among AIDS patients who are often fired once their employers know they are HIV-positive.
That is a problem that Jiddah resident Jibril Ahmed, a 31-year-old guard, faced when, in 2004, he told his boss he was diagnosed with AIDS. Ahmed had no clue he had the virus until his seven-month-pregnant wife and the fetus died. A test determined the three were HIV-positive.
Ahmed says he guessed he became infected eight years ago, but he would not say how. “Everyone makes mistakes,” he said. Because of his wife’s death, his family learned of Ahmed’s infection, including his two daughters, who are HIV-negative. Ahmed said family members at first were worried about catching the disease and would not touch the plates, cups, and cutlery he used. But now they have come to terms with it.
His daughters, 8 and 14 years old, know their dad is sick but don’t know the details. “I hope they will eventually understand I didn’t mean for this to happen,” said Ahmed.
Umm Muhammad also contracted the disease from her husband, she says. “At first, I was very upset and yelled at my husband and asked how the disease has penetrated our home,” she said. “But I’m certain he hasn’t done anything bad. That’s why I’m still with him and I support him.”
But she draws the line when it comes to telling her family. “When my 12-year-old daughter asked me recently what AIDS is, I changed the subject,” said Umm Muhammad. “It’s hard for me to tell her, even though I know exactly what it is.” (Donna Abu-Nasr, AP)

 

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Christian group nominated as ‘most gay-friendly organisation’

Posted by pozlife on November 28, 2006

A religious body rooted in Christian history has been nominated for an award as the most gay-friendly organisation in Britain.
The Quakers, also known as The Religious Society of Friends, have been proposed by readers of the Pink Paper.
Quakers are the only religious group in the award category, which also includes Amnesty International, Unison, Metropolitan Police and Age Concern.
Readers can vote via the paper and online over the next three weeks. The winner will be announced on January 11.
Neil Lazaroo of the Pink Paper said that the gay community responded to the stated Quaker belief that “to reject people on the grounds of sexual orientation is a denial of God’s creation”.
Quaker general secretary Michael Hutchinson said: “We are honoured by this nomination, and recognise and encourage the efforts of all the groups nominated.
“We hope the Pink Paper awards will stimulate others to recognise the humanity and potential in all people without pre-judgement.”
The Religious Society of Friends began in England in the 17th century by people who were dissatisfied with the existing denominations and sects of Christianity.
Traditionally George Fox has been credited as the founder or the most important early figure.
Quakers are counted among the historic peace churches. In Britain not all Friends see themselves as mainly or exclusively Christian, and many Quakers draw on a variety of spiritual sources. In this respect British Quakerism is distinct from many of its international manifestations.

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Police alert gay community after Manchester rape

Posted by pozlife on November 16, 2006

5-November-2006
PinkNews.co.uk writer

Police are appealing for information and warning the gay community to be vigilant after a man was raped after a night out with friends in Manchester’s Gay Village.
At about 430am on Monday 6 November 2006 the 27-year-old victim got into a car with a man in Port Street in the city centre after the night out on Canal Street.
Port Street is in a gay cruising area close to the Basement Sauna.
The man took the victim to an unknown location where he locked the victim in the car, threatened him that he had a knife and forced him to take off his clothes.
He then raped him in the car. He then drove the victim to another unknown location where he subjected him to a second serious sexual assault.
The victim finally managed to escape on Lord Sheldon Way, Ashton-under-Lyne, after the offender made demands for money.
The victim was helped by a security guard who gave him a coat and contacted police.
The offender is described as white, 5’8″, about 30 years old with short black hair, a chubby face and muscular arms. He had a deep accent which may have been Mancunian.
He has a tattoo on his right arm with writing on the inside between his wrist and elbow.
At the time of the attack he was wearing a stripy top and brown jeans or cords.
The man’s car was a dark coloured vehicle.
Detective Constable Pete Slater said: “This was a horrific attack on a man who had been having a night out with friends. He is understandably devastated that someone has done this to him and we want to make sure the man responsible is held to account for his actions.
“I know that some people may be reluctant to come forward as this area is known to be one where men meet for sex. We understand those concerns. But we would like to assure you that our priority is to catch this man. We treat all allegations of rape very seriously and any information you may have will be treated in the strictest confidence.
“Please get in touch with us if you know anything about this attack or if you suspect you know who the offender is. You can contact us here at the CID office, or if you feel more comfortable you could get in touch with our team of dedicated officers based in the Gay Village. Alternatively you can contact Crimestoppers in confidence.
“I would also ask members of the gay community to be vigilant around this area as this man may attempt this again.
“I must stress that assaults of this nature are very rare. However, for gay people who use this area, I would urge you to please be aware of your surroundings and take steps to keep yourself safe.”
Anyone with information about this attack can contact DC Slater at Ashton CID on 0161 856 9255. GMP’s Gay Village Safer Neighbourhood Policing Team is based at the Lesbian and Gay Foundation on Princess Street. To contact them call 0161 856 3277. Alternatively the team holds a surgery at the LGF every Thursday at 6pm. Crimestoppers can be contacted in confidence on 0800 555 111.
Anyone who has been the victim of a rape or sexual assault can contact specially trained officers, who are available to provide professional advice and guidance on how an investigation may proceed and the support services that are available.
The officers are trained as part of Project Nightingale, a scheme aimed at raising awareness of the support available to victims and setting out the standard for the investigation of rapes and serious sexual assaults.

Greater Manchester Police work closely with St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre who can be contacted on 0161 276 6515.

 

 

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Police alert gay community after Manchester rape

Posted by pozlife on November 16, 2006

5-November-2006
PinkNews.co.uk writer

Police are appealing for information and warning the gay community to be vigilant after a man was raped after a night out with friends in Manchester’s Gay Village.
At about 430am on Monday 6 November 2006 the 27-year-old victim got into a car with a man in Port Street in the city centre after the night out on Canal Street.
Port Street is in a gay cruising area close to the Basement Sauna.
The man took the victim to an unknown location where he locked the victim in the car, threatened him that he had a knife and forced him to take off his clothes.
He then raped him in the car. He then drove the victim to another unknown location where he subjected him to a second serious sexual assault.
The victim finally managed to escape on Lord Sheldon Way, Ashton-under-Lyne, after the offender made demands for money.
The victim was helped by a security guard who gave him a coat and contacted police.
The offender is described as white, 5’8″, about 30 years old with short black hair, a chubby face and muscular arms. He had a deep accent which may have been Mancunian.
He has a tattoo on his right arm with writing on the inside between his wrist and elbow.
At the time of the attack he was wearing a stripy top and brown jeans or cords.
The man’s car was a dark coloured vehicle.
Detective Constable Pete Slater said: “This was a horrific attack on a man who had been having a night out with friends. He is understandably devastated that someone has done this to him and we want to make sure the man responsible is held to account for his actions.
“I know that some people may be reluctant to come forward as this area is known to be one where men meet for sex. We understand those concerns. But we would like to assure you that our priority is to catch this man. We treat all allegations of rape very seriously and any information you may have will be treated in the strictest confidence.
“Please get in touch with us if you know anything about this attack or if you suspect you know who the offender is. You can contact us here at the CID office, or if you feel more comfortable you could get in touch with our team of dedicated officers based in the Gay Village. Alternatively you can contact Crimestoppers in confidence.
“I would also ask members of the gay community to be vigilant around this area as this man may attempt this again.
“I must stress that assaults of this nature are very rare. However, for gay people who use this area, I would urge you to please be aware of your surroundings and take steps to keep yourself safe.”
Anyone with information about this attack can contact DC Slater at Ashton CID on 0161 856 9255. GMP’s Gay Village Safer Neighbourhood Policing Team is based at the Lesbian and Gay Foundation on Princess Street. To contact them call 0161 856 3277. Alternatively the team holds a surgery at the LGF every Thursday at 6pm. Crimestoppers can be contacted in confidence on 0800 555 111.
Anyone who has been the victim of a rape or sexual assault can contact specially trained officers, who are available to provide professional advice and guidance on how an investigation may proceed and the support services that are available.
The officers are trained as part of Project Nightingale, a scheme aimed at raising awareness of the support available to victims and setting out the standard for the investigation of rapes and serious sexual assaults.

Greater Manchester Police work closely with St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre who can be contacted on 0161 276 6515.

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Time Out

Posted by pozlife on November 12, 2006

Time Out

body by crystal (330 height x 230 width x 11153 bytes)

drug free America

body by crystal

Crystal Meth…The Satanic Brew Crippling the Gay Community
By jimmy palmieri
Crystal Meth…The Satanic Brew Crippling the Gay Community

Meth, Tina, speed, chalk, ice, rock, glass are all street names for the drug meth amphetamine. This noxious recipe of chemicals, that may include, but are not limited to, ephedrine, crystal drain cleaner, bleach, battery acid and nail polish remover, among others, has the capability of destroying lives more quickly than any illicit drug currently available. It is so addicting to some, that after the first try, so strong is the craving to use again, that all else becomes secondary.

Crystal meth has taken a strong hold on the gay and lesbian community, with a particular vengeance on gay males for a variety of reasons. The affects of meth make the user less inhibited, and more euphoric in mindset. This is particularly enticing to gay men, who may have been admonished by their families, not accepted by their peers at school, or have not fit into what even their own community deems acceptable. Society has continually isolated gays and lesbians, leaving many with the desire or need to fit into some type of adopted crowd or family. Meth is sadly, the common thread among many of the disenfranchised. Meth also has the distinct capability of making men more libidinous, thereby making their feelings of inhibitions all the more exaggerated. This has created a devastating parallel between meth addiction, and HIV infection.

This was explained to a group of community members at the Kings Road Park meeting room, in West Hollywood, last Wednesday, February first by Dr. Matthew Torrington. Being Alive, APLA and Prometa addiction treatment center sponsored this community program. Dr. Torrington, a family medicine licensed MD, who specializes in the disease of addiction, fielded a barrage of questions from the audience of about fifty.

He explained that there exists naturally in our brain, the overwhelming desire to eat, sleep, and have sex. All three of these release chemicals into the brain, making us want each activity more, appropriately. The brain has the distinct ability to turn each desire off as needed. Herein lies the catch with crystal meth. It tricks the brain into thinking it needs more and more of this. By releasing an overload of the “feel good” chemical in our brain called dopamine, the brain is tricked into not “turning off“ the desire. The brain is unused to this amount of dopamine, making cravings almost unbearable. Thus begins the hellish nightmare of meth addiction.

And hell it is states Dr. Torrington. The last study that was completed in the US in the year 2000 marked more than six hundred thousand meth addicts trying to seek some sort of recovery. In California alone, meth is the primary addiction of choice preceded only by alcohol. Meth is snorted, slammed (injected), smoked and booty bumped (a liquid mix is inserted into the rectum). Sadly, slamming is the primary mode for more than half of the gay community, and can be the most difficult to recover from. It also aids in the transmission of HIV and the Hep C virus. More than ninety percent of addicts in recovery from meth relapse in the first twelve months of sobriety according to Dr. Torrington. He actually stated he feels the percentage is even higher than that.

Treatment has been or is only helping about ten to twelve percent of crystal meth addicts at any given time. The reason for this community meeting was to introduce a possible curative treatment to eliminate the desires associated with crystal meth addiction. It is called Prometa and is a proprietory blend of three FDA approved drugs currently being used with great safety. It was developed in Spain and is now being tested on patients in the US. There are only five doctors licensed to dispense this treatment in California that consists of three days of an hour long intravenously administered medication, followed by a ritual of medications in the morning and the evening. This is repeated between two to three weeks later, depending on the doctor’s recommendations, and the patient’s level of addiction. This is not cheap, costing about fifteen thousand dollars, which is not currently covered by insurance or and federal funding. They are in the testing stage, and collecting data. Dr. Torrington stated there are about three hundred patients receiving this so far, and they have had amazing success in curbing the craving for using.

He made it abundantly clear, that this is not a cure, and is part of a three-pronged approach to recovery. The treatment itself, an intensive therapy and medical program, and a good nutrition based program. Once the data is collected, and the patients receiving this for free through trial programs, are studied, the treatment center will begin asking for federal monies to help those without access to healthcare. Also of course, they will be trying to get insurance companies to pay for the treatment if it proves successful.

Is this snake oil or could they be onto something? From what I have read and from what I am hearing it sounds promising. It is not widely available, it is expensive, and it is not for every case.

Until then, let’s hope that our addicted friends, family and community members, find their way out of the hellish nightmare of crystal use, and hope that our youth decide that this drug is “not cool”, while they are finding their place of belonging.

Jimmy Palmieri is a member of the West Hollywood Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board, and hosts a weekly community outreach program called “Time Out” on the city’s cable access channel.

© jimmy palmieri, All Rights Reserved

 

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Understanding Haggard’s fall from grace

Posted by pozlife on November 10, 2006

It’s easy to delight in disgraced evangelical leader Ted Haggard’s very public humiliation. Perhaps he deserves that and more. But to stay in harsh judgment would do a great disservice to ourselves and to our hard-won self-respect.
By John Sonego
An Advocate.com exclusive posted November 8, 2006

 Understanding Haggard's fall from grace

I once went out with a guy who called his penis “Jackson.” Out of nowhere, he’d say, “Jackson likes this,” or “Jackson likes that,” as if the appendage were actually a separate entity. It didn’t take long for Jackson, his handler, and me to part company, and not just because I wasn’t interested in three-ways. Jackson was the only part of him that wasn’t ashamed to be gay.

I thought of Jackson when evangelical leader Ted Haggard and his three-year relationship with a gay hooker made the headlines. Until he was dismissed in disgrace by his church on November 4, Haggard danced around the fundamental questions of just who he is and what he has done like a champ, dodging and weaving to keep from acknowledging a truth he could no longer avoid.

Haggard and Jackson’s handler had one thing in common—they came from evangelical churches where there was no tolerance for gay sex. Taught that homosexuality is shameful and evil, they did their best to keep a tight lid on impulses that percolated just under the surface. As a coping mechanism, Jackson’s handler could block out that he’d just had sex seconds after the act was done; listening to Haggard’s emphatic denials, I wouldn’t be surprised if pastor Ted did exactly the same thing.

No one may know what actually happened during his trysts with escort Mike Jones, but it was telling to hear Haggard acknowledge what he perceived as smaller sins, buying meth and paying for massages, and studiously denying the big question about a sexual relationship. His was the posture of an addict in denial.

I’ve known too many evangelical men who learn to survive the same way. They live a terrible contradiction with no easy way out. They love God and want to serve him. But they are taught that God hates homosexuality. In such a construct they have no choice. To serve God they must suppress that part of their identity, locking it away in a Pandora’s box.

At some point many of them self-destruct, unable to maintain a life of deception and self-denial. They take greater and greater risks, unconsciously longing for exposure so they can be released from a prison of their own making. The opening prayer to Haggard’s last sermon before the scandal broke says it all: “Father, we pray lies would be exposed and deception exposed.”

The exposure he prayed for came within the week; it took him down, along with his shell-shocked wife and children. The children are the innocent victims of their father’s deceit; in one video clip, you can see the terror in their eyes when dozens of reporters’ microphones were thrust through the windows of the family minivan. Theirs will be a long, hard road.

I feel for them, for Mrs. Haggard, and even for pastor Ted. While there’s no excuse for his endorsement of antigay amendments and condemnation of homosexual behavior from the pulpit, imagine how he must feel knowing what his deception has done to his family.

 Understanding Haggard's fall from grace

I’ve been there, done that, albeit on a much smaller scale. After a conversion experience in college, I joined an evangelical campus ministry, eventually serving as a campus pastor after graduation. I saw the ministry and my church as a safety net, a way to keep in check the attraction I had to other men.

I told myself that if I believed strongly enough, prayed hard enough, served diligently enough, God would take these feelings away. But the feelings never left. And like pastor Ted, I acted out in secret.

All through college and after I engaged in anonymous sex in the restrooms of one of the campus buildings, along with dozens of other men who hung out there in late afternoons. I’d leave each encounter ashamed, and if I ever saw someone I’d met on campus, I’d turn the other way. To acknowledge the other party as a real person would make those anonymous acts too personal and too real, no longer an abstraction I could walk away from.

When my neighbor Neera invited me to dinner with her gay friend Tom, he was the first out gay man I’d ever actually talked to. He was a sweet and gentle guy, and suddenly I found myself desperate for a connection to someone who could understand what I’d hidden away for so long. With Neera looking on like a satisfied yenta, we talked nonstop through dessert and beyond. I thought I was falling in love.

That reality provoked the greatest crisis of faith if my young life. I shared my dilemma with my very Christian roommate, who warned me I was on the road to destruction and demanded that I never see Tom again. I couldn’t make that promise; I’d tasted the forbidden fruit and found it good. So my roommate, in the name of Christian charity, called my supervisor at the ministry where I worked and the pastor of my church.

The next day, I was jobless and expelled from my church. At the ripe old age of 26, suddenly friendless and without a job, I felt like my life had ended. But it was the greatest gift I could have been given.

I was forced to face myself: a gay man who was spiritual, a spiritual man who happened to be gay. I couldn’t begin to imagine how my sexuality and spirituality could fit together—but the long process of integration had begun.

For a lot of gay people, especially those who have experienced rejection at the hands of evangelical churches, it is easy to delight in Haggard’s very public humiliation. Perhaps he deserves that and more.

But to stay in that harsh judgment would do a great disservice to ourselves and to our hard-won self-respect. True, Haggard’s a hypocrite; true, he lied and covered up and lied again. But at its core his story is that of a man who was so thoroughly enmeshed in self-denial that he has no clue where to start to learn to live with and accept who he is.

For that he deserves our pity. And perhaps a helping hand, an offer from fellow travelers who know something of the road he must now walk.

 

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Pastor at Haggard’s church: ‘We stand with him’

Posted by pozlife on November 4, 2006

POSTED: 8:37 p.m. EST, November 3,2006

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (CNN) — As evangelical Christians absorbed the news of the Rev. Ted Haggard’s admission he bought methamphetamine — but did not take the drug — his church reeled with shock and heartache.

Haggard has led the 14,000-member New Life Church for 21 years.

“The response in our church is sadness and surprise,” said the Rev. Rob Brendle, an associate pastor at New Life.

But, Brendle added, “We believe in him and we stand with him.”

In a telephone interview shortly after Haggard acknowledged having contacted Mike Jones for a massage and purchased meth, Brendle said no one at the church sensed Haggard may have been up to surreptitious activities.

“Ted has for 21 years led this church in an exemplary way. He’s demonstrated the highest personal character, and his interaction with the staff and the people of this community has been of the most selfless and noble kind.”

Jones maintains that he and Haggard, who has strong White House ties, had a sexual affair lasting three years, with the most recent tryst in August.

Jones said he was a gay escort, and Haggard contacted him for sex, using a fake name. Haggard denies these accusations. (Read full story about Haggard)

When Jones came forward this week, Haggard denied knowing him — until Jones released recordings of voicemails Haggard had left him.

Friday morning Brendle spoke on the phone with Haggard just hours after Haggard resigned as leader of the National Association of Evangelicals, a group which represents 30 million people. Haggard also temporarily stepped down as New Life’s senior pastor.

“I asked him about his family, and he assured me that they’re doing well,” Brendle told CNN.

Haggard has a wife, Gayle, and five children.

“I asked him what we could do to help him while he’s going through this, and he said, ‘Gayle and I have given our lives to New Life Church and we’ll be OK, but please make sure that the church stays strong’,” Brendle said.

As for Jones — who brought his story to the media this week, triggering a national scandal — Brendle said the church holds no animosity toward him.

“I feel compassion for Mike Jones honestly,” said Brendle. “I think that the timing of his disclosure was motivated by politics and I think that it was decent of him to acknowledge that.”

Jones says he found out Haggard’s identity several months ago and decided to come forward to “expose the hypocrisy” of Haggard’s public support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which is on Tuesday’s ballot in Colorado.

“I think that he seems to be doing what his conscience dictates and my hope is that people’s response to him will be one of love and kindness rather than anger and hatred,” said Brendle.

He added that the church has openly gay members.

Brendle said he sees no hypocrisy in Haggard’s actions. “To my knowledge, Mike Jones has not alleged that Ted asked him to marry him… No, I do not see this instance as hypocrisy. I do see it as indiscretion, and I am grateful that Ted is repentant and humble.”

Brendle, 32, who has been with New Life for a decade, said the congregation supports Haggard and is “hoping he will go through a process that will restore him to health and well being.”

Asked whether Haggard is in some way sick, Brendle said no, but that he was referring to “general emotional and spiritual triumph.”

If certain allegations are proven true, “those would be evil,” he said, citing sexual activity outside of marriage and drug use.

“Doubtless the events of today and yesterday do tarnish Ted’s status as a role model,” Brendle noted. “And we deeply regret that.”

But he added that as a church leader himself and a father of three children, he views the church as a family that can help lift someone who has fallen.

“I want my children to grow up in that environment,” he said, adding that it’s alright for children to see someone they admire do wrong.

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