About Staying Negative

Staying Negative aims to emotionally engage, inspire and facilitate imagination in sexual health practices. The campaign profiles the real life stories of gay, bisexual and trans men who have sex with men (MSM). Men talk about all aspects of their life from coming out, relationships, sexuality and a broad range of other topics. While HIV and safe sex is an important part of all stories, it is not the exclusive focus.

Prior HIV prevention campaigns have traditionally focused on providing gay men with information that will encourage them to adopt safe sex behaviours. In reality, safe sex practices are influenced by a whole range of environmental and cultural factors. The campaign also provides an opportunity for HIV positive men to talk about their lives and discuss how their strategies to staying HIV negative were not successful. We understand that there is more than one way practice safe sex and adopt healthcare seeking behaviours, so let's be creative about it!

There are no real criteria for participants other than that they are MSM and happy to have their stories appear as part of the campaign. In addition to the personal stories, the website provides information on HIV/AIDS, sexual health, relationships and broad of the other relevant topics including domestic violence, drugs and alcohol and depression.

Relationships

Negotiated Safety

If you want to stop using condoms with a regular sexual partner, it is important to go through all the steps of negotiated safety. Even if you are both sure of your HIV status, whether positive or negative, it is imperative you still complete the “4 T’s” to ensure other STIs are not passed back and forth between you. The 4 T’s include:

Talk – Test – Test – and Trust

The 4 T’s work best once you’ve already discussed the parameters of your relationship such as what the ground rules are or whether you are monogamous or not.

  • Talk

Sometimes these conversations can feel a bit awkward, especially if it’s a new relationship, but it is very important to be completely honest for the safety of you both. Talk about how stopping using condoms can change your relationship. Some other questions both of you should discuss are whether you have had an HIV/STI test recently and what for? Why did he/you have the test? What has he/you done since then? These are important because if either of you have engaged in unprotected sex or risky behaviour recently, any tests may be false due to the “window period”.

(To see more about “window period” go to the HIV page in the Sexual Health section).

Try not to talk in an interrogative manner, but more so use questions that involve “we”, “how would you feel about” or “do you think it’s good for us to...”.

  • Test

Go and get tested together. Be prepared that depending on the results, they may affect how you chose to move on. If you decide to continue, be sure to refrain from any risky sexual behaviour.

  • Test

Go and get tested together again. You can never be too sure and this accounts for any “window period” or indeterminate results.

  • Trust

Not using condoms is trusting someone with your health, so make sure you both agree to the parameters of your relationship. Ensure that you trust each other to stick to the rules as well as being able to talk about sex outside the relationship and slip-ups.

Relationships

HIV and other STIs can affect you whether you are in a relationship or not. Depending on how serious or far along the relationship is, there are some important discussions that you should have with your partner.

              - Beginnings

              - Monogamous

              - Open

              -  Positive - Negative

              - Ends

  • Beginnings

The beginning of a relationship with a sexual partner can be fun and exciting. Try not to mistake emotions for trust before you’ve clearly spoken about anything but at the same time it may not be a good idea to have intense conversations about trusting one another in the beginning. It may creep them out! You may think that the two of you are only sleeping with each other but do not make assumptions so remember to always protect yourself by using condoms and lube.

  • Monogamous

Moving into a monogamous relationship is about the right time to start having the “talk”. Guys may want to entire a monogamous relationship because they are ready emotionally, they may want to experience intimacy without condoms or feel like they can have sex without worrying about HIV or STIs. For whatever reason, make sure you follow the 4 T’s of negotiated safety. Ensure you are both on the same page as to what ‘monogamy’ means to both of you and that

  • Open

With open relationships, it is important to set some ground rules so that you are both clear on what is okay and what isn’t okay. Examples of these can be that you’re not allowed to bring other partners home, you only have sex with other men together, make sure you always disclose who you have sex with and so on. Setting out some boundaries together will allow you to have as much fun as possible without worrying what you should or shouldn’t be doing. Also make sure that you trust each other enough to talk about slip-ups such as a condom breaking during sex with another guy and what you would do in that situation.

  • Positive-negative

Disclosure of your HIV status to someone can be quite daunting or you may find yourself in a serodiscordant relationship whereby only one partner is HIV positive. This can put strain on the relationship by creating fears, by thinking that the needs of one person is more important or even justify someone to stay in a relationship unwillingly.

It is very possible to maintain a healthy sex life in a pos-neg relationship by always using condoms and lube. Regardless of what their viral load is, the risk of contracting HIV is always there so make sure you’re aware of the risks. These challenges need to be dealt with and this requires awareness and honest communication from both parties. It is a good idea to talk to a friend, counsellor or even someone who has been through the same situation about any issues you are facing.

  • Ends

The end of a relationship can be a risky time for HIV transmission because it’s not always a smooth transition becoming single. Your partner may start sleeping with someone else during this period or vice versa. Either way, it can be a difficult time for both of you, but to be safe, make sure you always use condoms and lube outside of the relationship until you feel comfortable talking about and addressing the issue.

Tell us your story

Tell us your story

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Come and tell us your story! We would love to hear from you! If you want to find out a little more about how it all works, give Jessie a call at VAC on (03) 9865 6700, or email staying.negative@vac.org.au