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.

Living with HIV

Recently diagnosed

If you have been recently diagnosed with HIV, you could be feeling a little worried or scared about what happens next. Take a breath and let us help you with any support or concerns. With the advancement of medicine and research in the recent years, there are medications that can be taken to control symptoms as well as enable you to live a normal healthy lifestyle. The life expectancy nowadays has been hugely prolonged, and in many cases, people living with HIV (PLWH) very rarely die of an AIDS defining illness, especially if they are on HIV treatments.

It can be a little daunting asking for help but don’t worry, there are many resources available as well as support groups and services for people living with HIV in Victoria such as the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre and Living Positive Victoria. There are also a huge number of resources from the National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA) that are readily available online, as well as counselling centres if you feel like you would prefer to talk to someone in person.

Sex and Relationships

For some men, a positive diagnosis won’t have an impact on their sex drive. Other men, however, could feel uninterested in forming sexual relationships. Sex can involve a lot of emotions and you may feel like everything is a bit of an emotional roller coaster. It’s not uncommon for men who have recently been diagnosed to lose interest in sex. If this happens, don’t let this worry you. Give yourself some time to come to terms with your diagnosis. There’s no point trying to force yourself to have sex if you don’t feel up for it. Take it one step at a time and if you’re ready, talk to people about how you feel.

If you’ve been diagnosed with HIV, you need to decide on who you want to disclose this information to. Public Health law in Victoria doesn’t specifically require you to disclose your HIV status to sexual partners if you use condoms when fucking (anal sex). It is against the law, however, to have unprotected sex with someone without making them aware of your status if you are HIV positive. You can be criminally charged by knowingly putting somebody else at risk.

If you are HIV positive, you may unfortunately experience stigma and discrimination from time to time. This can be something as simple as a person not wishing to have (protected) sex with you because you have HIV, or can be as malicious as verbal or written attacks regarding your status. This is entirely unacceptable and very unfortunate when it happens. However, if it does happen to you, try to remember that this position is a reflection of the other person’s ignorance and anxiety, and you should not personalise their sentiments. This can be hard to do and often stigmatising behaviour will stir up a range of emotions for you. If you are looking for support, go and check out the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre for a list of support groups or ENUF (social action to resist HIV stigma and promote resilience).

Alcohol and Party Drugs

Drinking alcohol is a very common social activity and it can be hard to refrain from having the occasional drink. Just be aware that alcohol can interact with HIV medications sometimes causing serious side effects. It can also slow down the recovery from certain infections which could potentially lead to further complications. It is always best to speak with your doctor regarding alcohol and its interactions with HIV medications.

Drugs are also quite common in the party scene and these can interact negatively with HIV medications. The interactions are very problematic as in many cases the HIV medication will significantly increase the effects of the drugs on your body. Whilst this may sound like good news, it makes it hard to gauge how a certain quantity of a particular drug will affect you.  This can place you in serious danger of overdosing on what you might ordinarily define as a safe amount of drugs. If you are unsure of how you will respond to drugs while on HIV treatment, it is always a good idea to take it slowly and start off with half of what you would ordinarily take and see how you go. It is always important to have a confidential discussion with your doctor about how drugs and HIV medications will affect you.

Whilst obviously best practice would say that you shouldn’t take any recreational drugs for a significant range of health reasons, if you’re going to do it, at least try to make it as safe as possible for yourself.

To read up more about recreational drugs, go to our Party n' Play page.

Treatments

Deciding what treatments to take and when to start treatment is an important personal decision that you should make in conjunction with your HIV specialist. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor as many questions as you want; it is very common for HIV positive people to be actively involved in their treatment plan.

There are several resources available for you to access so that you can be informed about what types of different treatments are out there, what side effects they may have and what each type does to the virus. It is important that you speak with your doctor about treatment options and what will work best for you. Even though this is their area of expertise and they’re there to help, you do not have to blindly follow the advice of your doctor. If you have questions or the doctor’s advice is at odds with what you have read or heard, then you should always bring that up with them. It is important that you have a doctor that you feel comfortable having these types of conversations with, and remember to double check with them if you decide on taking alternative treatments, or whether taking any other drugs will interact with the HIV medication.

Whilst the side effects of HIV medication have gotten substantially less severe than they used to be, it is not uncommon for people to still experience a range of side effects from their HIV medication. If this persists, speak to your doctor about ways to help control these side effects or possibly changing treatment plans. There is a lot that can be done to limit the impact that the side effects of treatments can potentially have on you. Make sure you don’t just stop taking your medication either. This can lead to resistance to certain HIV medications and cause treatment options to become more complicated. There are also other impacts on your health as a result of stopping treatment. If you do wish to stop taking HIV medication it is important to fully discuss the reasons, alternative treatment options and any medical queries with your doctor.

Everyday precautions

  • Wipe up any blood spills carefully with household bleach and disposable paper towels, wearing disposable gloves. Use cold water.
  • Keep cuts, wounds and abrasions covered with sterile waterproof dressings.
  • Place bloodstained tissues, sanitary towels or other bloodstained dressings in a plastic bag before disposal.
  • Blood stained clothing can be washed on a regular cycle in a washing machine once rinsed.
  • Use condoms and water-based lubricant during sex.
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