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.
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I’m 32. I’m a Sri Lankan, but I migrated here about five years ago to do my study. I saw freedom over here in Australia - I’m talking about the gay life here - and I decided to stay.
It’s a lot different here to Sri Lanka. Gay sex is still illegal over there, there is no bar or meeting place in Sri Lanka, everything is discreet and closeted. Although, when it comes to sex, people are more active in Sri Lanka than here, even though it’s a taboo subject.
It’s different to here. Say for example I have sex with you, I’ll ask you, ‘is it alright if you give my phone number to other friends so I can meet up with them as well?’ Here, I don’t find that. Here, you pick up at bars or you go to beats or something like that. Over there it’s more like true friends. That’s the other thing. Here, having sex, that’s it. Bye bye. Over there we’ll be friends forever. There, you always will have contact with them again.
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I came out to my family when I first came to Australia. Maybe they already knew that I was gay. But of course I went to boys’ school. When you go to boys’ school, having sex with other boys is normal, it’s just boys having sex. It would happen after school, at band or cadet practice. That’s just how we started at school. Not anal sex or anything, just normal sex - blowjobs.
I can’t remember whether I had anal sex when I was at college. Of course, when I was in my late teens I started having sex. I came to Australia, met this guy and moved in with him. And so I decided to tell my parents.
When I was back at home I had to do whatever they said. Always. No matter how old you are. You have to. You have to listen to your parents. If they say no then that’s it. So I told them that I’m living with a man and I’m gay. First they just didn’t understand. They were really ignorant about it. “What do you mean by gay?” Because they are really traditional, Singhalese Buddhist people they didn’t know what ‘gay’ meant. So I had to explain to them a little bit.
After that Mum didn’t speak to me for over a year. She wanted me to come back to Sri Lanka and I said I’m not coming back.
I prefer my freedom over here. I have been doing whatever you told me to back home, but I’m not a kid any more.
So we didn’t speak for a year and then she called me on my birthday. It might have been my 28th. She called me! My god, yes, I’m happy. After two or three months both of my parents came to see me. It was really good. My boyfriend at the time and I were sharing a two bedroom house. They were in one room and we were in the other room. And they were there for three months and after that I took my boyfriend to Sri Lanka for three months. That was how I came out. Now everybody in my family knows that I’m gay and so, yeah, it’s really cool at the moment. No problem.
My family doesn’t pressure me to get married. My mum still says she’d love to see me have kids, blah, blah, but I don’t listen! I told them they already have six grand-kids from my brother and sister but they still said that when they came over here “You’ll find a nice girl and get nice dowry”. I say give me a man with a dowry!
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I first realised I was gay when this boy always came to my place, like you know, always. I think I was about 10 years old and he started to feel me up. We started to have sex at the age of ten and it continued with this particular boy for another seven years or so. Then I started having sex with other guys, always with older guys. I don’t why, because at that stage I was still a kid. I was ten years old. Maybe they used me? I don’t know. Not too sure!
When I was in high school I had a girlfriend as well. I had sex with her six or seven times, but I didn’t like it. Didn’t enjoy it. That’s all.
Also at school, when I was about 15 or 16, there was this boy who was my best friend. We were like ‘husband and wife’; we went everywhere and did everything together. We had sex together as well. He came to my place. I went to his place but nobody knew. All that they knew is that we were together as best friends.
We tried condoms a couple of times, just for fun. We didn’t even know about the safe side of them, we just tried them for the fun of it, you know, like people take drugs to see how it feels? We never thought of using them every day but we used them a couple of times.
Later at school they started to teach safe sex at the later part of your education, around Grade 11 and 12. They used a banana and put a condom on it! Everybody was given a condom, banana or cucumber and shown how to put it on and how, when you come, to take it off safely.
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When I first arrived here to do my study I never had any intention of staying here. None at all. I never thought of like you know, the gay side of the world or anything. So then after a couple of weeks I read about a sauna in a gay paper. I went and I thought WOW! THIS IS FUN, MAN!
It was so good. It was the first time I experienced it. I was a student. It was like some sort of a holiday for me. I met this guy from Adelaide. I had sex with him and after that he came to my place. I quite liked him and he quite liked me as well. Guess what? The next weekend I went to Adelaide to see him! The weekend after, he gave up his job in Adelaide and moved to Melbourne, and we moved in together! It lasted for two years.
When I first arrived in Australia, I used to go to the sauna a lot. For three years. After that, I had enough, I was sick of it. I haven't been back in the last two years. I think it’s really, really dirty. It put you off, it smelled. I think it really is a health risk sometimes. It’s unbelievable. Piss in the cubicles, shit in the cubicles.
I’m not too sure how often they are cleaned. To my knowledge they cleaned it twice a day. It’s just amazing; condoms lying everywhere. Used ones! When I first went there I was too excited, I never saw that. But after a couple of months I wanted to go to a cleaner place. I stopped to going to that sauna and started to go other places. And now, to be totally frank, no thank you!
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I always used condoms. Always. I made sure that I did all the time while I was with my boyfriend. Of course when I first had sex with him at the club I had condoms. Then when we moved in together we both went to check our HIV status.
Both of us were HIV negative. We got tested twice. You do that test, then you have to wait for a while and then they test you again to make sure. Then we started having sex together without any condoms. But after I split up with him, if I had sex with anybody, I made sure that I used a condom, even with my next boyfriend, until we’d both been tested.
I enjoy having sex without a condom, but I am not going risk my life.
It wasn’t difficult to talk about using or not using condoms with him. It was a mutual talk. To tell you frankly, I hate it to change condoms all the time and keep putting them on, so it was like, why don’t we just go and get ourselves tested. So we can do it without condoms.
Then we started to have sex without condom. I trusted him. I know he doesn’t go anywhere other than me. He trusted me. After a while though, I wanted to go and have sex with other people and we split up. Sometimes we still have sex now but we use condoms again.
It wasn’t hard to tell him that I wanted to have sex with other people. I told him because I felt I’m obligated to his health. I felt like, why should I put somebody’s life at risk? Like, you know, you have to use a condom.
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I see a lot of safe sex advertisements around. Any time when I go to a toilet there are those bloody things stuck behind the door! Posters that warn you in case you are having group sex or pop an E or K or something and want to have sex without a condom. NO! I am not going to do that. Nobody is going to do anything to me and I am not going to do that.
There are some other people who have done it. I have told so many people, you shouldn’t do that, man, shouldn’t have sex without a condom, I mean. But I don’t want to be their mother.
In Sri Lanka I would say that 90% of the people I have sex with are friends and when you know each other like that, you know what they’re up to. It’s different from just going to a bloody dark room somewhere. When you’re having sex with strangers you don’t know whether they are HIV positive or whatever. Some people tell you if they have something. But most of them don’t say, ‘I got this; I got that’, so you have to be wise.
I go to bars. I flirt with them. He comes to my place or I go to his. I definitely find it easy to negotiate using a condom. About two months ago I picked up this guy who didn’t want to use a condom. He got angry when I said, “Sorry, I can’t have sex with you without a condom. I don’t know you; I just saw you at the bar”. This guy expected me to have ‘naked sex’. It’s annoying, but things like that happen.
It’s happened to me two or three times. But most of the time my experience has been good. Sometimes, as soon as you got to their place, there were condoms. It was good! I see this guy - I met him at a bar and we always have fabulous sex - when we finished the session we looked around, we had about one million condoms on the floor.
It looked like a whore-house! It’s just great. It’s fantastic.
As I said, I find a partner and we are together. You begin to feel comfortable, like boyfriends. So you go and do your tests to check if everything is alright so you can start having sex without condoms. But I have to make sure that he isn’t fucking around.
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I normally go to the Clinic every three to four months and get tested for HIV. Other than that I don’t do any other tests. If I get some sort of a rash or something I just run there! Yeah, I hope I don’t have anything!
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My doctor is fantastic. He is really, really easy to talk to, just fantastic. You don’t have to feel shy. You feel really comfortable with him. That’s what I think a doctor should be. Maybe it’s because he is the same age or because he’s gay, I don’t know. You can talk and have a laugh.
Once I was having sex with this guy and the condom broke and that’s when he told me he was HIV positive. I was freaked out. I went straight to the doctor and he put me on PEP. It was six tablets in the morning, three times a day. This happened about eight or nine months ago. Actually, the lube we used that time was really oily, so maybe that’s what caused the condom to break.
I’m glad he told me. What could have happened if he didn’t tell me? That was the scary thing. But I had a chance to go the doctor and do something about it. Anyway, I got the all-clear and I was happy. He was really lovely guy and I still have contact with him, but it made me a little bit scared. But we are good friends. We talk and this and that, he’s a lovely guy.
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Do I prefer a monogamous relationship? I don’t know, I can’t answer that at the moment. At the beginning I do, but after four or five months I get bored. That’s what happened with my last boyfriend. I said, “I’m sorry, I think I want to sleep with other guys.”
I don’t have anybody here in Australia, not a single person, so I feel very secure with him. To other people, they would have thought I am a selfish arsehole. He is my best friend. I always go to his place; I feel really comfortable with him. But when it comes to sex I like to have it with different people. I stayed with him for a year. When I stay with a person, I never have sex with other people. If I want to do that then I will tell them.
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I’m seeing a guy at the moment but it’s at an early stage. I quite like him in every way but I haven’t stopped having sex with other people because I am seeing him. He’s not my boyfriend, he’s just one of my special friends. I think it’s the same with him. I don’t know, I never asked. It’s not my business to ask if he’s having sex with other people at this stage.
I used to be the kind of person, as soon as I met a guy who was loving and caring, I’d think, ‘I’m going to be his boyfriend; he’s going to be my boyfriend'. Like in a week or two! But I’ve learnt my lesson. NO BLOODY WAY! Now I need to study the person for six or seven months. Then we’ll see.
I’m an arsehole! I mean, when I’m with someone the first six months are really exciting – everything is new, I love doing everything together but after a while I can’t settle down. I want different people to have sex with.
When I’m single I have fun and go out but if I go out with a boyfriend I feel like I have to be with him. I can’t flirt with anyone else.
I have to be with him because I am his partner but I end up wishing he wasn’t there – so I can go with other guys.
And yet I’m a really jealous person. If my boyfriend sees someone else, I’ll be really jealous. I can do what ever I want but he can’t. I think it’s really selfish but I don’t anything to make it better. That’s me. Stupid. I don’t why. That’s why I said that I’m not ready for another relationship.
Another thing that’s really important to me is being able to show affection in public. The boyfriend I had earlier, he didn’t want to kiss in public. He was scared.
‘It’s in public!’. I don’t care! I don’t care whether it’s Flinders St Station or at work.
At work everybody knows that I’m gay. I feel really comfortable to let them know that I’m gay. I don’t want to hide anything. That’s one thing I expect from my boyfriend. To go out together and be myself, not to have a double life in front of other people. That’s very important for me. That one thing I couldn’t do that back at home.
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Maybe I can have a better relationship when I get a little bit older. Everyone wants the same thing. I’d like to own a house with another person. I’d love to have a dog, travel with a partner. Do things together. I live by myself and sometimes I feel really lonely.
I’m really sexually active person and sometimes I get bored with the same thing. I try different things, group sex, something different I enjoy. Whoever is going to be my partner has to enjoy the same thing. I have been practicing safe sex for so many years it just comes to me automatically. But when I have a partner we’ll go through the tests together. Then I can have unprotected sex with my partner. Other than that, no bloody way!
Indi grew up in Sri Lanka.
Indi moved to Melbourne to study, but found that he liked the gay life and decided to stay.