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Monday, 3 October 2011

Hep C: Fears; Risks and Recriminations

I think I really need to talk a lot more on the matter of Hep C and my experiences and observations around this growing epidemic. I feel for me a massive turning point in my viewpoint on hep C was acquiring it. Up until this point I really didn't  know a lot about it at all and as a result had been polluted by the emergent swathe of misinformation, Chinese whispers and hush hush cloak and dagger conversations on the subject by buddies, guys in chat rooms and blokes on the scene. By the time I was told I was positive I was so scared, hortified and anxious about it (I was HIV negative at the time) that I genuinely thought it was the end of the world. I figured if I was going to be told i had anything it would be HIV. This was not something I had mentally prepared myself for. This was the wrong virus. How could this be happening to me?

The ironic thing is, that as a result of a particularly difficult period in my life, mixed with high levels of stress, grief and depression, I had decided to bug chase. I Needed to punish myself, and what better way? The problem was, I was stupid enough the fool myself into thinking that I was only chasing one specific bug. More fool me eh. If there was one thing I didn't want to get it was the dreaded Hep C! Nobody would touch me with a barge pole now! The (HIV) poz community I had been so desperately trying to join had suddenly become even more distant! Oh what a fool I had been!  I instantly felt like i needed to point a finger. Find another to blame, shout at somebody else to make myself feel better. I think in retrospect, this is a kind of normal reaction. Bug chasing or not.

Who had given this to me?
Who had not told me their hep C status?
Who had been the liar?
Who had duped me into playing with them whilst knowing all along that I was negative for everything?
Who the fuck was I kidding?

Nobody had given it to me. The possibility that somebody had gone put of their way to deliberately infect me existed, but, was remote at best. As fucked up as the world is I don't think it's quite that fucked up yet! The only thing most of us are guilty of is being permanently horny. Though using the word guilty in this context implies that this is a bad thing which it most certainly isn't. The fact was that the only person responsible for me getting Hep C was myself. This was a difficult conclusion the reach.

It is not (for the majority of us) until you acquire a disease however that you start to properly dig around for hard solid facts and find out a lot more about it. Just how easy it is to get. Just how hardy the virus is and how it can survive as a viable and infective agent for months outside the body and in the right conditions, like in a nice tub of crisco (Fisting lube for those of you who don't know what Crisco is) kept out in a warm playroom or even stored in a refrigerator to keep it fresh! How the straw or bullet that John, Dave and Brian have been using for the past 18 hours to get the ketamine, coke and mephedrone up their noses is probably laden not only with drug powders but also with small speckles of blood from their damaged nose lining. How Hepatitis C can appear unsymptomatic for over a decade, or that the symptoms can be so vague that you blame them on a hangover or comedown or are masked by other things such as side effects for other medications you already take. All these little facts that had managed to slip past me. The only thing to blame here then was my own ignorance. Or was it?

Being positive for Hep C grants you access to a different type of ‘Club’. However, as I was to discover, it is a very dark, underground and secretive club. One whose members habitually lie about their status. One fuelled by fear, stigma and ostracisation. Exclusion of a newer sub- group by another already ostracised and excluded group. I soon discovered with a lot more clarity that having Hep C was a little like being a Leppar within the HIV community. People stopped playing with you, stopped talking to you, stopped sending you messages online. You would get sudden waves of activity and tracks being left on your online profiles but with no cruises or subsequent contact. These behaviours left me not only paranoid but also feeling very dirty and not dirty in a good way I can tell you. However, a big upside of having Hep C for me was something pretty obvious. Acquiring this virus was something which tended to happen to the sleazier and more deviant of the fetish brotherhood. I now had access to all the filthiest fuckers on the block with no fear of getting something nasty; I already had it! Every club has its benefits so it seems! The flurry of dirty sex I had in the first 6 months of being Hep C positive was possibly the biggest learning curve about my own sexual limits I have ever experienced <GRIN GRIN GRIN>.

The problem with me is I don’t know how to keep my mouth shut! I am very open and vocal about who I am, what I have, what I have done etc etc (Though I do respect the discretion and identity of my playmates unless I have their permission to disclose who they are. Many on the scene however don’t share this moralistic viewpoint and revel in the drama of gossip and tiddle tattling about who they last fucked!). I am now very much of the opinion that the best weapon we have against ignorance and stigma is openness and communication. Being honest with myself and those around me and being able to express myself freely is something I seriously value and take a big pride in. This is what gives me confidence, helps come to terms with changes in my life and very much shapes me as an individual. This is the best weapon we have against Hep C. I feel that we still have a long way to go but I do hope that the feeling of segregation and isolation felt by many in the Hep C community can be waned away through openness and acceptance of this STD as a part of our lives as members of any community, be that HIV, fetish, gay, bisexual, sleaze, fisting, disco bunny or barebacking.  I am now Hep C negative but I still feel very much part of the Hep C community because effectively were all in this together!

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