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Yes I certainly had a struggle and it goes back almost 30 years.
I don’t mind sharing my testimony as I feel it could reach out to others both from a spiritual and educational point of view on my experience with street drugs and the dangerous complacency of HIV.
The fear of HIV / AIDS initially led me to repentance and a belief in Christ going right back to the mid 80’s when the virus was considered an immanent death sentence. I have had an up and down relationship over the years however with my recent diagnosis of HIV it has never been so close.
In early January 1985 I developed a severe rash, sweating and fever about six months after having a casual encounter with a guy that I met abroad. I was out of work for several weeks and to inflame the situation my GP had me wrongly prescribed on antibiotics unknowing that I had an allergy to them. Fortunately it all turned out to be a hoax, however the fear going through all of this got me to say the sinners prayer and accept Christ into my life. The exact date I received Christ into my life was the 29th of January 2004as I had it written in my Bible.
I attended a local fellowship and Bible study but it didn’t take too long before I started to drift back into my old ways. This verse in the Parable of the sower sticks out very strong in my mind.
“Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away”. Matthew 13 vs 1-6.
I moved to the USA in 1989 spending several months in San Francisco where I frequented the Castro and Fulsom districts. I witnessed first hand people suffering with the developing stages of full blown AIDS. Some struggling in wheel chairs, Zimmer frames with aged faces, recessed cheek bones, sunken eye sockets, Images etched into my mind that I will never forget. I supported many of the Silent = Death rallies and chatted with groups.
On my return to Dublin in 1994 the scene started to pick up after deregulation, Bartley Dunne’s on Stephen St lower had long disappeared. I occasionally drank at the Jurassic Bar of the George, the Front lounge or this other bar called “Out on the Liffey” which was a filthy kip where light bulbs were deliberately removed in the upstairs women’s toilets to create a dark “cruising room”.
A popular cruise spot was the back of the East Pier at Dunlaoghaire, the temples as they were known locally consisted of three ugly cast concrete shelters popular for hooking up. They stank of human excreetment and urine never the less the strong whiff of poppers, or a guy lightening up a cigarette would temporary take your mind away from the stench. I can always remember the sound of discarded beer cans and broken glass being kicked around as someone fresh wonder through. I always preferred to go there after a storm when the place would be washed out clean by the high waves.
I was once with a guy at the lower temple when a Garda surprised us with a flashlight. We both scarpered like rats, I hadn’t even the time to grab my bicycle. By the time I got a safe distance and looked behind, my bike was being wheeled away. I knew that if I chased after him for it I would have been arrested for indecent exposure in a public place. The following morning I reported that my bike had been stolen from outside Peakers Night club the previous night, I got the bike back without question.
Normally if I encountered Gardai when out cruising I would remain calm stay put or walk towards them rather than arouse suspicion and run away quite like what a lot of others do and obviously draw their attention. Palmerstown park was another cruising spot but the surrounding area was also heavily patrolled by detectives as there was a number of politicians living in the area, I was questioned there once and told not to be seen in the area again.
My biggest fear were the bashers, I had a few close encounters and have met a number of guys that were beaten up. I was always vigilant and would never cruise in an area without having a bolt hole. Towards the end of the nineties the temples at the East Pier were cemented or caged up, the hedges were cut back and CCTV started appearing, the place became dead ever since. I never had an interest in cottaging, a gay term used for cruising in public toilets, I would have considered this to be the lowest of the lowest, it was also high risk activity both from bashers and getting caught by undercover detectives.
Roll on to 1999 I moved down the country and met a wonderful woman in my life that I thought could help “straighten” myself out. The relationship lasted 5 years, She already had a deposit on a house from an inheritance. Her best friend was gay and at the time she asked me if I had a problem with that. I said not at all hiding my own situation. Her Gay friend moved to Dublin to study and invited both of us up for a weekend. He dragged us into the George on a pub crawl, I had my fingers crossed that I would not be spotted and saluted but fortunately the night went smooth.
Things suddenly began to go pear shape after returning from a holiday abroad. We ended the relationship. Two weeks later I told her of my “other side” and that I felt a passion towards being with blokes. That was a bomb shell, she was absolutely devastated. I was not out at the time and couldn’t handle it myself. I needed counselling, I knew then that I could never be with a woman after this. It took several months to come around however we have now since become the closest of friends and keep in contact on a regular basis.
I “came out” immediately after this, family first, friends and then beyond.
It was not too long before I met my first boyfriend from Breda in the South of Holland. We hooked up on Gaydar and arranged an open relationship as we could only get together approximately once a month. An open relationship is where both parties agree on meeting up with other guy, this is of course more risky. I had the use of an in-laws apartment in Barcelona for several months. It was an excellent base for the local scene and “bear” festivals in Sitches. On the night of out 1st years anniversary we split up at the Bear Factory night club, we didn’t even drink the bottle of Cava that we bought earlier on in the day . That was the last time I ever went out with a guy. I preferred it without the baggage.
I remained a few weeks on my own in Barcelona, On a Saturday night I would go to club Martins after the Bear Factory, it was your typical club with secluded dark rooms. The first drink was always complimentary and after that a small 1/3lt bottle of mineral water would cost you €5.00. This was not much if you were taking pills. I would purchase a 2Lt bottle in a supermarket for €1.50 and hide it inside a bag up the road. I would then ask for permission from the bouncers to make a phone call outside and use this as an excuse to get the water. I double dropped two ecstasy tablets and a Viagra I went back inside after drinking as much water as I could. About fifteen minutes later I developed a cramp with excruciating pain, I couldn’t pee, I felt violently sick. Something was not right and I almost passed out, I managed to stick my fingers down my throat and force myself to get sick, pure water came out, I learned later about water intoxication and never ever mix extacy with Viagra.
I became a regular customer to the “Boiler House” and also ventured into on line cruising with the more explicit sites such as Recon and later BBRT. This led me into getting involved in P&P or “chem” sessions which would involve taking drugs in particular G, ecstasy and poppers. I became more complacent with my sexual activities. I got a ban from the Boiler House after an overdose on “G” of which landed me in the IC unit of St James hospital. I should have taken this as a wake up call but I kept on at it.
Four months later I got banned from the Dock for the same reason except I was managed to walk out of the place. I got tested shortly after at Baggot St where Doctor Keeting had warned me about my GLB addiction both from a cardiac prospective and also from the risk of picking up STI’s such as HEP C and HIV, I didn’t pay attention and still kept at it.
I also enjoyed the London scene, Bear Pride at XXL was my favourite. It was a large venue under three railway arches, If you got there early you could still hear the rumble of trains passing overhead. There was a large bar / quite area with couches, three disco floor. The sound, lighting and acoustics were of the highest club standard and would put any venue to shame, they even had their logo beamed across the dance floor using several large moving head lamps.
My favourite room was the techno room where underground obscure dance and trance music was played on vinyl. Directly across the way was the dark room, this was of equal size and consisted of a number of couches and movable screens. You would be greeted with the strong whiff of poppers. I was there one night when the police raided the place. The lights went on suddenly, a woman in a fluorescent jacket produced her shield shouting police. The dark room cleared almost instantly, you could see the reminisce of used concoms, opened lube packets, empty poppers bottles tshirts and underwear scattered right across over the floor. On my next visit the dark room had disappeared and a lounge had taken its place.
I would use the Saunas for cheap accommodation, Chariots of Shoreditch or the locker room. Find a quite cubicle lock myself in and crash for the night, piped dance music would be loud but it would be something that I would get used of as most saunas played the same stuff. I ended up got busted for personal quantities of pills returning from London Pride. Luckily it was just a fine nevertheless the authorities made an example of it which included being locked up in a holding cell for the day along with several trips back to the UK for collecting charges and a magistrate court appearances. This was my last visit to the London scene.
I then started to venture up to Belfast and discovered the Pipeworks and Outside Sauna’s, This lasted for several years. I had a built up a number of contacts both friendship and other. Last December I was assaulted on the Enterprise in a non provoked homophobic attack. The incident made the press. I should have taken heed this as another wake up call to give up promiscuous cruising activity; unfortunately I did not.
As soon as I recovered from my injuries I started to return to Belfast again, I was still in shock after the incident however taking the bus was less stressful. I had just been tested negative at Baggot ST. I would have only had a possibility of two encounters at the Outside sauna compared to the several hundreds that I would have had over the previous eight years. I was totally complacent about the virus and at this stage actually foolishly thought I was immune to it.
Three weeks later I developed a high temperature and a nasty fever, my tongue felt like a sheet of sand paper, my bed sheets were wringing wet, my taste buds were all over the place, tea and fresh ground coffee tasted like muck, I was burnt out completely for several days. I knew things were not right and made an appointment with Baggot St. A week later I was given the chilling result of which at this stage I kind of expected it.
I broke down in tears remembering the incident in the 1985 when I first cried out to God for forgiveness. I felt that had really let him down. When I prayed and picked up the Bible and started to search through scriptures referring to repentance and forgiveness. I felt this amazing inner feeling of calm, peace. The scripture of 1 John 1 stood out. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.
Being diagnosed positive has been a major wake up call for myself. It has brought me right back to my senses to look after myself both physically mentally and spiritually. I have now lost all the desire to carry out my old ways. I now accept that having any form of sex with other guy is sinful and against the teachings of scripture an example being in Romans 1:26-27.
I have broken the news to many of my former partners, some I will never see or hear from again, others I will keep in contact with, particularly those that I have known a long time and have trusted.
I certainly believe that a person can lose their salvation and I would go as far to say I that one would be judged far more severely than anyone who else that has not being enlightened for ignoring Gods initial call and spitting at him right in the face like what I had done over the last twenty five years. 2 Peter 2:21,22 is quiet specific about this. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Peter+2%3A21-22&version=ESV
I have learned over almost 30 years that I cannot practice homosexuality and be a Christian at the same time, I have tried to compromise but it just dose not work. I have cried out to the Lord on numerous times throughout my life in various crisis that I had and each time he has answered my call without fail with peace in mind and love though his word and the Holy Sprit. I have been the one that has broken the promise and have let him down by backsliding.
Catching HIV was perhaps the most devastating thing to happen in my whole life, It has hit me below more than all the other incidents in my life put together because it was the initial fear of HIV/ Aids that first led me to the lord.
Since I have been diagnosed I have been delivered from bondage of all recreational drugs including , G, ecstasy Ketamine, poppers. I do not need them any more; I have also completely lost the desire to have sex with other guys. I now feel that it is wrong and sinful and goes against the teachings of Christ.
I have had different reactions with both Christian, GBLT and former sex partners. Most are fine, understanding and caring. I am also quite open about my HIV status and my former promiscuous life style.
On the HIV aspect.
Many seem to think that HIV no longer a big deal since medication can now reduce the viral load down to undetectable levels. This may be true but having it will certainly involve a complete revamp of lifestyle. You will be required to stick rigorously to your medical prescriptions and doctors appointments.
A good food diet is of upmost importance, plenty of exercise, discipline, quitting recreational drugs, cutting out excessive drink and anything else that could possibly damage the immune system. Those that ignore the above may pay for it dearly down the road in later life.
As I am over 50 I was told that there is the possibility of pre mature aging and for this reason I will be placed on meds prior to when my CD4/ T Cell count starts to fall. My system will soon be bombarded with a cocktail of antiviral chemicals for the rest of my life. I will also be required to take regular flu and other vaccines.