Let’s Talk HIV… But Y?

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I’m sitting in a meeting about a new campaign HIV Foundation Queensland is about to embark on. Renowned cameraman, Mikey Trotter, is talking to me about what the goals are; who is involved and we’re discussing how I can help the campaign. HIV Foundation Queensland are filming a series of short docos about Queensland men and women living with HIV. Anything that will get people to educate themselves is worth my time, so I’m keenly listening to every word.

There was a distinct turning point when I realised that this wasn’t just an awareness campaign. HIV Foundation Queensland are tackling the stigma surround HIV and that’s going to push a lot of people’s buttons. Buttons that many would prefer to remain untouched and forgotten.

I know I can do with a refresh when it comes to HIV awareness and it’s apparent I am not alone. Most gen Y guys never grew up during the AIDS epidemic of the 70s. HIV isn’t claiming the amount of lives it used to, but despite this progress we still have work to do. By today’s standards HIV is not the catastrophe it once was because it doesn’t affect first world communities like it did years ago. Mikey and the HIV Foundation Queensland are here to remind us that complacency is a killer.

What we don’t realise is that our friends, peers and colleagues are contracting HIV and we’re mostly unaware because it’s unspoken of.  No one wants the stigma or discrimination that goes with being HIV+.  Rightfully so, who in this world wants to be ostracised? It’s hard enough coming out as gay, let alone disclose that you’re HIV+; or both at the same time.

It’s time my generation realised that HIV is still present and it doesn’t discriminate on any terms. You can be educated, wealthy or attractive – no one is immune from the risks of unprotected sex. HIV isn’t just a ‘gay’ disease; it affects us all and does not discriminate. This is not a scare campaign; rather the goal is to remove the increasing ignorance.

For example, how many times have you or your friends received a message on dating apps like Grindr, Scruff etc. asking for BB (BB means bareback a.k.a sex without a condom). I personally have received requests and offers and it alarms me because it’s usually from the younger generation.

We do need an HIV campaign and more that we need to remove the stigma. HIV+ people have feelings, dreams, and aspirations and deserve the freedom to live without discrimination. I propose a declaration that the gay community transform the way we relate to HIV and it starts today.

Mikey explains the campaign and why HIV Foundation Queensland is giving HIV+ men and woman a voice. If you think you can move the conversation forward I encourage you to get in touch. Call 07 3871 2555 or email mikey.trotter@mediacom.com

If you, your friends or family require support please contact your doctor or beyond blue.

Here are prevention tips from the HIV foundation Queensland. See more on their website.

Safe sex means caring for both your own health, and the health of your partner. Practising safe sex by using condoms, protects you from getting or passing on sexually transmissible infections (STIs) including HIV.

  • Always use condoms if you have vaginal or anal sex. Condoms are the only contraceptive that protects against both STIs and pregnancy. Even if you’re using other methods of contraception (like the pill or a diaphragm), always use condoms as well.
  • Before having sex, discuss the use of condoms with your partner and come to an agreement. Remember, you have the right to say NO if your partner does not agree to use condoms.
  • If you are having unprotected sex, talk to your partner about the risks involved. Your decision about safe sex is important, as some STIs can be cured but some can’t, including HIV.
  • Never have sex (even with a condom) if your partner has a visible sore, ulcer or lump on their genitals or anal area. Suggest they see their doctor, family planning clinic or sexual health clinic.
  • To protect against STIs, use a condom when having oral sex. If you put your mouth in contact with your partner’s anus or vulva (outside of vagina) while having sex, you need to use a dental dam (whether you are a guy or girl). This is especially important if you’ve got a cut or sore around your mouth or lips, or have bleeding gums.

STIs can also be transmitted if you use sex toys, so you need to be safe. Use condoms and change the condom for each person. Wash the toys carefully after use and wash your hands after removing the condom.