This just in: Gay men using drugs, getting infected with HIV

Bill Weintraub

Bill Weintraub

This just in: Gay men using drugs, getting infected with HIV


We did a lot of HIV reporting on this board last year.

But I'd cut back in January because so many of the stories are repetitive:

Gay men callously infecting other gay men.

Safer sex educators and AIDS activists excusing their behavior and decrying legal penalties for those who knowingly transmit the virus.

High rates of substance abuse, depression, and low self-esteem.

Super-high rates of HIV infection.

Super-high rates of NEW HIV infection.

AIDS advocates blaming those high rates on homophobia and substance abuse; and on bizarre side-issues like affordable housing.

While insisting that HIV is a gay disease; or a disease of gender inequality; or poverty --

and NEVER mentioning anal "sex" and promiscuity.

Then there were the all-too-consistent medical mis-steps:

Underestimating the efficiency of HIV.

Overestimating the efficiency of condoms.

Radically overestimating the efficacy of condom campaigns.

Overestimating the efficacy of HAART.

Failure to recognize that people on HAART with low viral-loads could still progress quickly to frank AIDS.

Failure to recognize the dangers inherent in treatment holidays.

Failure to accurately recognize the damage HIV does to the brain, and the ability of HIV to survive in the testicles, gut, etc.

Failure to recognize the danger of co-factors like infection with malaria -- and most likely other diseases.

Failure to talk about male circumcision -- indeed, while tens of millions died worldwide, taking EIGHTEEN years to finally announce what was obvious in 1989 -- that male circumcision is protective against HIV.

And in our little neck of the woods, a complete failure to acknowledge the value of non-anal alternatives:

something the Dutch had published about as early as 1987.

Taken together, or even just one at a time, these factors constitute a breath-taking indictment of AIDS Inc and especially ANAL Inc, which has put protection of the so-called sexual revolution and specifically anal penetration and promiscuity ahead of saving the lives of gay and bi men.

Then, a couple days ago, there was this article on yahoo:

Sex, meth and Internet spark new AIDS fears

By Matthew Verrinder

Wed Jan 17, 2007

"Sex, meth and internet spark *new* AIDS fears," the headline reads.

Problem: there's nothing "new" about these so-called fears.

In point of fact, this story has been done to death.

First off, the understanding that there's a connection between "substance" use and sexual dis-inhibition far predates AIDS.

It predates civilization.

But, just sticking with HIV, which is forever treated as a special case, from the beginning and throughout the epidemic there have been warnings about drug use and AIDS.

In the early years, before the discovery of HIV, many believed that AIDS was caused by a combination of multiple sexually transmitted infections and drug use.

Including the drug amyl nitrite aka poppers -- which is still under suspicion.

Even after HIV was discovered, men were warned to avoid drugs and of course alcohol.

These issues of substance abuse and HIV were covered by the gay media extensively in the 1980s and to some degree in the 1990s.

While the mainstream / nongay media lagged behind.

Then, in 2001, the NY Times ran a ground-breaking article by Erica Goode, which we reported on, and which identified alcohol use as a factor in the anally-vectored infection of an SF safer-sex counselor, Seth "Twilightchild" Watkins.

Later in 2001, we discussed Dr Grant Colfax of the SF DPH, who was concerned about METH use at raves and circuit parties, but nevertheless insisted, in one of those orgies of politically correct excess that so frequently come out of San Fran, that circuit parties were "a positive influence on the gay community."

Then in 2003, we reported on the SF Chron's series titled Dance of Death, which looked specifically at METH, GAY MEN, and HIV.

That was FOUR years ago.

In 2005, we looked at a much-circulated and still well known New Yorker article which also examined the alleged link between meth use and HIV infection.

I say "alleged," because actually no link has ever truly been established.

We reported on that, and the outrage which the questioning of that link produced; and subsequently one piece of research did appear which claimed to have seen a link.

But nothing's appeared since.

So the truth is that in SCIENTIFIC terms, no one knows whether there's a link between meth use and HIV infection.

It's all anecdotal.

Now, when we looked at the New Yorker article in 2005, I pointed out that it wasn't meth which was getting guys infected, it was ANAL.

Yes, folks can get infected through the injection of meth, but again, that's not news, and it's not the way most gay men get infected.

Most gay men get infected through anal penetration -- not IV drugs.

In short, it's not the meth -- it's the anal.

And that's as true today as it was in 2005, and 2003, and 2001, and indeed, 1981.

Nevertheless, let's take a look at this yahoo article, which claims to have discovered a "new" AIDS fear.

Sex, meth and Internet spark new AIDS fears

By Matthew Verrinder

Wed Jan 17, 2007

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An hour after speaking at a Crystal Meth Anonymous meeting about the benefits of sobriety to dozens of other recovering addicts, Charlie was alone in his Chelsea apartment, logged onto the Web site Adam4Adam dot com.

He cruised the site's profiles of muscular gay men who want to meet for sex while high on methamphetamine, and found his match: a 50-year-old man from Manhattan's Upper East Side who liked to "slam" the drug, or inject it directly into the bloodstream.

"I blew two-and-a-half years of sobriety in a few hours," said Charlie, who did not want to give his last name. "All I had to do was log on, and it just so happens that it was right there."

Charlie lives in Chelsea, one of the gayest and most expensive neighborhoods in Manhattan, where apartments routinely sell for more than $1,000,000.

And to PnP -- get high and do anal -- he goes to the Upper East Side, a neighborhood which traditionally is even more expensive than Chelsea.

Yet, the National Minority AIDS Council insists that poverty and lack of affordable housing are driving HIV infection.

Not among men like Charlie and not among any other "men who have sex with men."

What's driving MSM HIV infection is obsessive, promiscuous, ANAL PENETRATION.

In New York, thousands of gay men use the Web sites Adam4Adam dot com, Manhunt dot net and Craigslist dot org as an easy way to meet for sex marathons at underground orgies while high on the addictive stimulant.

Similar sites exists in other cities. The phenomenon -- while affecting only a small part of the gay community -- underscores the spread of meth from the U.S. rural areas where it gained an early foothold.


A mixed message here:

1. the phenomenon affects "only a small part of the community"

Actually, HIV prevalence among gay men is at least 25%.

That's not a small part of the community.

2. "sex marathons at underground orgies while high on the addictive stimulant"

That hits all the hot buttons.

Ted Haggard couldn't have done it better.

Now, what percentage of gay men actually take part in those orgiastic marathons?

I don't know.

What I do know, however, is that

1. it's not insignificant; and

2. through sexual networks of concurrent partners, the disease generated at those orgies and marathons spreads.

So the truth is that this is a phenomenon which has a major impact on gay male life.

BUT -- it's still NOT a NEW phenomenon.

It was news in 2003 -- though it wasn't new then either.

It's not news now.

Health officials worry that the ease in using the Web to find meth -- which erases inhibitions and judgment and creates a voracious sexual appetite -- and people to do it will fuel a resurgence among gays in infections of HIV, the virus which causes AIDS.

There already is a resurgence.

Rates of new infection have been skyrocketing.

The "worry" that the reporter, Matthew Verrinder, has manufactured in order to sell this story is not new and has long been here.

About half of new patients diagnosed with HIV by counselors at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, New York's largest private clinic for gay men, said that meth or alcohol was a factor, said Gal Mayer, the center's medical director.

"meth OR alcohol"

What proportion used meth?

And how bout the other 50% of new infections?

If substance abuse causes HIV infection, how come 50% of the newly infected didn't need substances to get infected?

Men who are high on meth are four times more likely to have unprotected sex than those who aren't, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That may be, but that doesn't mean that meth CAUSES men to have "unprotected sex."

As we know, and as Mr. Verrinder is about to explain, there's a culture of "PnP" -- party and play, meaning do drugs and bareback.

Meth is part of that culture -- no question.

But the barebacking LONG PRECEDED meth.

Again, the real issue is not the meth -- it's the anal.

"These men use meth to escape and forget about their positive HIV status," said Michael Siever, director of San Francisco's Stonewall Project, a counseling program for gay and bisexual men who use crystal meth. "They assume everyone else is positive at these parties, which isn't the case, and it leads to more infections."


Here we are back with Michael Siever, whom we first encountered, and presumably Mr Verrinder also encountered, in the pages of the New Yorker, and who is "director of San Francisco's Stonewall Project, a counseling program for gay and bisexual men who use crystal meth."

The last time we met Mr Siever, he was, in his OFFICIAL capacity as "director of San Francisco's Stonewall Project, a counseling program for gay and bisexual men who use crystal meth," wearing drag and emceeing a show called Tina's Cafe.

This is how it was reported in the New Yorker in 2005 -- a report which Mr Verrinder almost certainly read, since he interviewed Mr Siever:

Soon, a tall man in a short dress appeared. His name was Michael Siever, and he wore a brunet wig, high-heeled pumps, and magenta stockings. "Welcome to Tina?s Caf?," Siever told the crowd. "I am really glad you are here. We are going to talk about what?s real tonight. About paranoia and violence and anger and fear. About reality." A couple of dozen heads nodded in unison. "We are going to talk about what is happening to our world." Siever has the soothing voice of a psychotherapist, which he is. He is also the director of the Stonewall Project, a highly regarded counselling program. "Tonight, above all, we are here to talk about Tina."

Tina is crystal methamphetamine...

So here we have a leading light of SF's HIV prevention community legitimizing drag and effeminacy in the name of preventing HIV infection.

But drag and effeminacy facilitate anal penetration which is the ACTUAL cause of HIV infection.

The ACTUAL cause.

So maybe Mr Siever shouldn't be legitimizing effeminacy.

Maybe he should be attacking it.

Along with anal.

Heavens to Betsy Bill!

You want a gay psychotherapist to attack effeminacy and anal?

Walter Odets, who's the doyenne, as it were, of gay psychotherapists in SF, has already declared that any critique of anal is homophobic.

Which means we're not allowed to criticize THE CAUSE OF THE EPIDEMIC!!!

At least not without being slandered, which is what Mr Odets oh-so-cleverly managed to do to me in the pages of the Advocate, after I'd suggested that anal isn't the cat's pjs.

But hey, why worry about slander?

I mean, it was in a good cause after all -- preserving and protecting anal penetration.

Let's get back to Matthew Verrinder's piece -- which also doesn't criticize anal:

Also, Siever said, some long-term meth users have built up tolerance to the drug and must inject it to get high -- some using dirty needles which lead to more HIV transmission.

About 45 percent of the men who sought treatment at Stonewall in the last year admitted they had injected, Siever said.

That's a problem.

But not a *new* problem.

Again, EVERYONE KNOWS that shooting up transmits HIV.


The online code for mixing sex and meth is PNP, shorthand for "party 'n play."

The sites are free and allow members to search for partners based on proximity, HIV status, preferences in appearance and sexual practices, whether or not they use condoms and which drugs they use.

[emphasis mine]

That too is a problem.

I wonder whether ANYONE has ever suggested demanding that those sites enforce a code of behavior among their "users."

We do.

Our Frot Club Posting Guidelines read No advocacy of drug use, No promiscuity.

For having these sorts of policies, it's been suggested more than once by "safer-sex educators" that Bill Weintraub -- that's me -- be "shut up" and put in jail.

Yet no one ever seems to say that about the webmasters of Adam and Manhunt.

Nor am I, by the way.

But, so far as I know, those are for-profit businesses.

Why isn't anyone at the very least regulating what they're doing?

The justification for NOT regulating has always been that the activity will be driven "underground."

No doubt some of it will.

But that's a better place for it to be -- than to be LEGITIMIZED on huge gay websites.

It SHOULD be DIFFICULT to find unsafe sex and drugs.

Instead, the gay establishment and the AIDS establishment, in the name of combatting homophobia of all things, make it EASY to find unsafe sex and drugs.

To repeat: What the gay community has done, using the internet, has been to make it EASY to be unsafe, and to stridently resist any calls for regulation -- while piously entreating men befuddled by dope to behave "responsibly."

"You can literally do searches so that you're within a $5 cab ride from someone," said Bill Stackhouse, director of the Institute for Gay Men's Health at the Gay Men's Health Crisis, a group that fights AIDS in New York City.

Some men, like Charlie, use the sites because they are relapsing after a period of sobriety and don't have a dealer. Others do not want to risk buying drugs on the street or are hoping to parlay sex into free drugs.

"It's the fast-food version of sex and drugs," said Siever. "You can order in."

That's correct.

Because of the way those sites work and the power of their metrics, it's about as difficult as ordering a pizza.

Also logged on to the sites, silently waiting behind a profile that includes a headless photo displaying his fit chest and abdominal muscles, was Terry Evans, an outreach worker for Positive Health Project, a nonprofit that seeks to stem the spread of HIV in New York.

Evans was trying to convince meth users to have safe sex.

"convince meth users to have safe sex"

Like I said, that's the community response:

We're going to politely ask men hopped up on meth and viagra to put a condom on it.

And that's based on exactly NOTHING.

Because the one piece of hard science we have on this is Buchbinder et al, which found that there was only a one percent difference in risk between "protected anal" and "unprotected anal":

Unprotected Receptive Anal (URA) vs Protected Receptive Anal (PRA)

Many studies have demonstrated that receptive anal sex is most strongly associated with prevalent and incident HIV infection in MSM and carries the highest per-contact risk of acquiring HIV. This study found that that URA with either HIV-positive or unknown serostatus partners explained one quarter of new infections in this cohort. Surprisingly, we also found an independent increase in the risk of HIV seroconversion among men reporting PRA with an HIV-positive partner. This finding likely represents a combination of overreporting of condom use and unrecognized condom failure by the receptive partner. Condom failure rates are particularly increased among MSM who use condoms infrequently, substance users, and those failing to use appropriate lubricants.

"Condom failure rates are particularly increased among ... substance users"

So even if you can persuade a meth head to use a condom, chances are the condom will fail.


A message quickly popped up in his inbox from user "bkpdnyc," a 32-year-old man from Manhattan who said he likes Evans' body and soon admitted that he parties with "Tina," a nickname for meth.

Evans tried to string the man along to coax him to come in for one-on-one counseling. But before Evans could reveal his identity, the man logged off. Evans sent him a message anyway with the nonprofit's mission and phone number.

"Initially a lot of them feel it's a bait and switch and they get kind of angry, but more than half come back and ask questions, and after that a lot of them come in," said Evans, who noted about a dozen men have come in over the last year.

[end of article]

"a lot of them come in" says Mr Evans.

Actually, it's not a lot.

It's "about a dozen men ... over the last year."

That's one per month.

There's a prevention success story for ya!

I have some questions for Matthew Verrinder.

And his editor.

1. Why are you presenting this as a new story when it's an old story?

2. Why are you giving the gay leadership a free pass on the question of internet hook-up sites which allow men to look for anal and drugs?

For example, since you talked to them, why didn't you ask Mr Siever and Mr Stackhouse about that?

3. Did you ask Mr Siever, the SF psychotherapist-cum-drag-queen, or Mr Stackhouse of GMHC, what proof they have, if any, that their prevention campaigns are working?

Because clearly they're not.

End of (rhetorical) questions.

Anyways, it's a mystery why people write stories like this one.

A better story, and a far more honest one, would have acknowledged the articles in the NY Times, SF Chron, and the New Yorker, just for starters, and then looked at the failure of the gay / prevention community to effectively address the problem -- which is now of many years' duration.

But that would require actually looking at why gay men degrade themselves and destroy their health and the health of their peers by doing anal and drugs.

And that in turn would require an acute examination of the culture underlying the behavior:

An aggressively secular and anti-Masculine culture which glorifies the objectification / feminization of the gay male body;

while promoting its degradation through the unholy triad of anal, promiscuity, and effeminacy.

See, that's the story that Mr Verrinder and his editors don't want to report.

In part because it doesn't appear to treat gay men as victims.

Victims of homophobia, victims of drug abuse, victims of whatever.

Instead, it appears to take the anti-gay side in the culture wars.

But how pro-gay is it to let this state of affairs go forward, with nothing more than the bi- or tri- annual handwringing in the press?

Doesn't it make more sense to look long and hard at what's actually underwriting these behaviors?

And to call for change?

And, just speaking journalistically, is no one's curiousity aroused?

Remember, these are prosperous and successful guys.

They are without question among the most privileged inhabitants of the planet.

Yet they're killing themselves and each other through a combination of street drugs and anal fornication.

Doesn't anyone -- besides me -- wonder why?

Of course I believe I know the answer:

That these are men who, having rejected, at the urging of very strong cultural and historical forces, their own Natural Masculinity, are now engaged in multiple attempts at self-destruction.

As will any male who denies the Masculinity which is his by right of birth -- and without which he cannot live.

The equation in the Verrinder story, as it was in the SF Chron and the New Yorker, is Meth + HIV = death.

But that's not correct.

ANAL + HIV = death.

ANAL + anything = death.

Because anal is the denial of PHALLUS.

And Phallus is the living and sacred symbol of Manhood -- of the male's creative power, his Life Force.

Phallus is Manhood

Manhood is Man

That's the truth.

Until that truth is recognized, the men Mr Verrinder and Ms Goode and Mr Heredia and Mr Specter are reporting on -- will continue to die.

Bill Weintraub

© All material Copyright 2007 by Bill Weintraub. All rights reserved.

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