The PrEP Scare: Healing Is Vital

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Barely months into the much publicised. seemingly mass uptake of Truvada as a preventative measure against becoming HIV+ amongst men who have bareback sex with other men, a report has arrived of a case where a guy taking the medication has become positive.  Blood tests indicate high adherence to the presribed dosage, but the wonder drug did not work.

Voices in the health profession are running forwards with a Don’t Panic message.  One swallow does not make a summer and all that.  Nobody wants the hard fought for sexual liberty that is showing signs of arriving in gay life to be snuffed out again.  Over a very short period of time sex has become less frightening: positive guys with undetectable loads, thanks to the highly effective medications that are now available. are seen as less risky fucks than guys who believe they are negative but may not be.  The appearance of Truvada as Pre Exposure Prophylaxis, enabling negative guys to theoretically be able to fuck anybody without fear of becoming positive, offers the chance that HIV could be eradicated within a generation or so. What a dream!  What a dream to shatter.

The PrEP debate gets the headlines, but like all medically related discussion around HIV,  the focus on the biology of the situation entirely misses the spirituality of what is going on.  Science considers us to be animals pursuing their primeval appetites, and the medical profession attempts to heal the wounds that are inflicted on our body as we do this.  If we have mental wounds too they will also have a go at helping with those, perhaps simply medicating them away.  But nobody is addressing the spirit of what is going on – that is to say the discusion around why we are so keen to have sex that may lead to nasty infections and our early death,  and the energies that men share with each other when they fuck.

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When we are feeling the joys of life, have a spring in our step and a healthy lust in our loins, the sex we have will of course be amazing.  We share the feelings going on in us when we join our bodies with each other as well as sharing our physical forms and the bugs living therein.   If we are chasing sex to escape feelings of depression, loneliness, neediness etc then those feelings are present in us when we fuck.  We pass them into another’s person’s energy field just as our semen enters and dissolves into their flesh.  This is grim thinking I know.  It’s much easier to just talk about tablets.

When we are in love with someone the energies we can share through sex are majestic, divine even, they can lift us into heavenly states of being.   Even when not in love we can take a spiritual attitude – ie viewing all those we have sex with to be worthy of our love and kindness – and so doing,. bring great energies to the sexual playing field.  When we are really feeling positive in ourselves, drugs are unlikely to do much to improve our experience, sex becomes highly energised and ecstatic without the need for excessive use of stimulants, and the vibrations we give out to others are good for them.

I have been HIV+ since 1990, lived with full blown AIDS from 1995-9. As i prepared myself to leave the body behind I let go of the idea that HIV is a simple physical virus – I saw HIV as a manifestation of CRISIS of more than one level of a person’s being: in the emotional self (the accumulation of unresolved issues), in the mind (eg caused by negative outlooks), in the body (overstressing it) and in the spirit:  I came to view HIV as a soul dis-ease as much as physical disease.  The reason perhaps that I survived pneumonia, gastro infections, and rampant KS on my skin and in my lungs, is that through this revelation I saw the way to heal my own soul.  In fact the soul led me, I just had to let it seize the reins, take my ego down a few pegs and realise that the soul knows what it’s here for and how to get on with it.  I had ignored my soul since my early teens, and that, I believe, is why my immune system was breaking down. My lifeforce could not stay in my body because my soul was not engaged, but once embraced an inner light began to open, grow and has become the centre of my life.

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The lifeforce will find a way.  The human soul is crying out to be acknowledged, honoured and nurtured in our harsh, calculating, challenged modern world.  We can medicate away the threat of HIV killing us, or even of becoming positive in the first place, but until the goal of Awakening that Nature is pushing us too is found, She will continue to push us over the edge, one way or another.

Healing Is Vital.  The reason that HIV hit both the African and the Gay communities is that we the ones most denied and abused by the dominant white patriarchal culture, and have been since centuries.  HIV emerged as a manifestation of the pressure thar our peoples have suffered over time.  That we rose to the challenge and found a way through that holocaust time shows our strength, our ability to endure and survive.  For centuries the white straight man has sought to destroy the feminine side of masculinity, and to enslave the men and women of races they viewed as inferior.  But their attempts to subjugate and stamp out have failed. We survive because there is nowhere else to go. We belong here.  We are the people of this planet.  It is time for us to remember that.  Because we are not the ones holding the power and the weapons, we are the ones who are closer to the earth, closer to the Mother Spirit, closer to WAKING UP… and HIV came along as a catalyst to help us do that.

On a certain level, the epidemic of HIV amongst oppressed groups is in fact a gift, not a curse: HIV when viewed as a trigger to face our mortality, put our lives in order, live healthily and heal our souls puts those of us with it way ahead of the consciousness game in comparison to the mainstream majority of the population.  When used as a door into questions… and the seeking of answers.. around life’s mystery, HIV can be a catalyst for Self-Discovery, Personal and Spiritual Growth: for the discovery of the eternal soul within, waiting to flower into all its divine potential, which it will do as soon as we wake up and notice it is there.

If we could notice the divine soul in each other too that would hasten the process of healing and growth.  Instead of seeing each other as meat to be devoured, as toys for our pleasure, we serve each other much better when we look to meet the divine miracle that each one of us is, full of potential, creativty and an infinite capacity to love.

When we make love we share all the energy that is in our body and soul with another person.  Our thoughts buzz in our energy fields like electric charges, they can be postive or negative, healing and helpful… or deadly.  Emotions swirl through us too and the good ones are the ones it feels best to share.  Fetish sexual practices, eg BDSM, can help us share and release darker emotions too – while still having fun.  Sex can help us to keep our emotional bodies in good shape as well as fill us with orgasmic physical feelings.

When we become conscious of exactly what we are sharing when we have sex we are more likely to put a bit more thought and care into what we are doing .  Are we spreading joy or spreading our dismay and dis-ease?  Are we loving the people we play with or are we using them, and simply loving ourselves, if even that? Are we treating sex as a holy gift that can open the gates to our inner kingdoms, or as a stopgap/commodity compensating for the pain of the nagging holes in our soul?

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PrEP is not the answer.  PrEP is not the point. PrEP barely touches the real question.

Finding our Selves is the point.  Why are we like we are?  is the question.

I am aware of a number of men who have remained hiv negative despite years of barebacking with a positive partner (even when that partner has a roaringly high viral load), where are the headlines about their experience?  One guy on PrEP becomes positive and it’s all over the world.  The medics of course do not want to admit that actually they have no real idea why one person becomes HIV+ and another doesn’t.

Gay life is riddled with negative, judgemental attitudes.  We do give each other great sex, but we give each a lot of shade too.  Racism, Sexism, Fem-phobia, Body Fascism – fuck, we can be really rotten to each other.  We share our dis-ease as well as our diseases when we get intimate.  But let’s try to remember that we are a people, a part of humanity, that has been beaten and attacked, our existence criminalised and declared a sin, for a very, very long time.  We are still clearing that history, and are horrible to each other, and to ourselves, sometimes because of what we carry in our DNA, in our spirit, as well as because of the wounds we have gained in this lifetime.  We are a community that some serious soul healing to do, and making the story simply about drugs and viruses seriously underestimates what is going on amonst gay men.  We are a part of humanity still in the early stages of finding its way, our liberation story has really only just begun.  We are more than our biology, and in order for us to find the way forwards from the health crises that assail us, we have to embrace, that on a soul level as well as physical level, Healing Is Vital.

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The beginning of the end for HIV?

World Aids Day 2014: as i travelled in to central London to speak at a ‘Let’s Talk About Gay Men, Sex and Drugs’ event at the Charing Cross Road Manbar, there were only a few red ribbons around on the tube – and only on gay men it seemed – with no acknowledgement of the day on the front page of the Evening Standard.  They missed the scoop, which i found on the BBC website when i got back home:  “HIV evolving into milder form” – a team of scientists in Oxford are telling us their research reveals “the virus is being “watered down” as it adapts to our immune systems.”  They even speculate “the virus may eventually become “almost harmless” as it continues to evolve.”   Apparently the antiretroviral drugs are targetting the more virulent forms of the virus and encouraging the milder ones to survive.

The scientists are keen to point out HIV is still deadly and isn’t going away in a hurry – but also saying: “We are observing evolution happening in front of us and it is surprising how quickly the process is happening.”

I want to say the same about gay life based on some of the things i heard at the Manbar last night.  The community gathered on Charing Cross Road, a cross generational event and it was a relief to be at a World Aids Day event that made room for the expression of our intellect, emotion and creativity – rather than being just another fundraiser, where we are encouraged to drink beer and throw money in buckets.  It was actually more than a little bizarre to be in the former 79CXR, once known as a haunt of lustful and sleazy pick up vibes, hearing intelligent, witty and insightful words from so many men.  Pubs have been hugely important in gay culture during recent decades, but they can rather reduce us all to a low common denominator of predatory, drunken behaviour.  Speaking to each other, about things that matter, is not the norm on our gay scene which often provides us a wordless escape from our lives into altered queer realities.  On this night however I felt the potential of our social spaces to serve as community hubs.  I remembered how AIDS brought us together as a community – the slow response from the authorities forcing us to become more organised, more militant and more compassionate with each other – and i felt some of that spirit last night.

I also saw how COMPLEX our situation has become.  There are so many levels to our situation: every speaker last night had something different and something fascinating to say to the crowd in their 5 minute slot.  Dan from ACTUP spoke proudly of their action to deliver a load of bullshit to the door of UKIP that had happened that very day.  Scene podcasters Dylan and Jack, poet Alexis Gregory and several open mike contributors presented tales of gay party life, which comes over as ecstatic, hilarious and tragic at the same time.  In just a few years things have changed enormously, and those that would deny that there is a massive drug use crisis in gay London have got their heads in the sand.  Two decades ago injecting drugs was unheard of on the scene, but now slamming parties are quite normalised; the inability many experience to have sex without drugs came up a lot – also the difficulty of finding someone to play with who doesn’t use chems.  Grindr was compared to cottaging – it used to be that gay men went into public toilets to find strangers to have sex with, now we sit at home and do it.  (My memory of cottaging suggests that the adrenalin of fear – of attack or arrest – was great enough to get the ecstatic juices flowing.  Although you would see the occasional drunken man in a cottage, taking drugs was not going to work, you needed your wits about you to indulge in this dangerous game.)

I stood up to offer some poetic insights into the situation, based on my 25 journey with the virus and the internal, spiritual, transformation it provoked in me.  Telling the pub that my lowest cd4 count back in the 90s was 3 earned me their focussed attention.  I was not the only one bringing some spirituality into the night – young poet Nasser spoke of how we need faith in something in order to steer our personal ship through life’s waters: in ourselves, in a god, in Cher – something!   In the contributions i saw how this complex situation of lust, drugs and disease forces us a gay community to move beyond judgement.  There were several pleas for this last night, and I felt the call resonated in the crowd.   The drugs open the gates to great times, there is no point in denying that.  Condom free sex is glorified in porn and in life as the best thing on earth (though other perspectives were expressed last night, were given some much needed air).  If we judge each other’s behaviours the conversation will go nowhere.  It’s not hard to see that many men are using each other like commodities to be enjoyed and discarded.  it’s clear that drug use gets out of hand for some, and that underlying our behaviours is our old friend SHAME.  We are only a few decades into our gay liberation, we are still inventing, re-inventing, what it is to be a same sex lover on this planet.  We clearly need to love each other, and ourselves, more. As a community, a tribe within the human family, we have some serious healing to address.  What has encouraged me after attending this gathering of scene queens who care is that there are signs of that healing, of expanded love and some spiritual awareness emerging from many angles and from every age group.

The night’s revelations peaked for me when Gregory Mitchell, writer and activist on PrEP, presented a vision of the future where a daily Truvada pill would provide protection against infection from HIV.  Greg, who was growing up when homosexuality was still illegal, and remembers pre-aids sexual  freedom, has remained hiv negative and enjoyed an active sex life over the decades (though in the 80s he said he stopped having sex all together, it just became too scary).  He proudly sported a #TruvadaWhore t shirt and painted a picture of happier times to come.  So far, PrEP, pre-exposure prophylaxis, is showing a 99% success rate.  A two year trial is currently underway in the UK.  It is estimated that if men who are at risk of infection use PrEP it could be possible to eradicate the virus from the gay community within two to three decades.

Is there a sense growing amongst us, a wisdom emerging, that understands that nothing is ever entirely dark or light?  There are two sides (at least) to every story.  The drug mania, like HIV, is part of our evolution as a sub-tribe of humanity freed from centuries of repression.  In some parts of the world we are still persecuted – African presidents call us Satanic – and still live in abject fear.  Here in the west we have gained some freedom – including the freedom to destroy ourselves through unbridled excesses. I believe we owe it to our brethren and sisters around the world to rapidly evolve through our collective crises and become powerful examples to the world of the LOVE, LIGHT AND HEALING we bring to the human family.  The powers that be are not going to stop us throwing ourselves off the cliffs of insane addictions and incurable diseases, as in the 80s and 90s if we want to create a better, stronger, more caring, more creative, queer community we have to do it for ourselves.

Congratulations to Pat Cash, David Stuart and the Manbar for hosting a World Aids Day event with brain, heart and balls.aidsribbons