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.

Hepatitis C virus

What is it?

Hep C is a virus that can cause inflammation of the liver and may result in liver disease.


When first infected, many people with hepatitis C do not experience any symptoms. Others may experience minor flu-like symptoms, nausea, abdominal pain and jaundice (yellowing of the skin, eyes or urine) in the early stages of infection. Some people are able to “clear” the virus naturally within the first 2-6 months of infection and this is the case for about a third of people who get hepatitis C.

When a person has had the virus for more than six months, the illness is called chronic hep C infection. Symptoms are not very specific (it can be mistaken for other infections) and may include; fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, fever or flu-like symptoms, soreness in the upper right part of the belly and joint pain. Chronic infection can eventually lead to liver cancer and cirrhosis which is when damaged liver cells become replaced with hard tissue.


Hep C is passed on by blood-to-blood contact so infected blood from one person must enter another person's blood stream. A small amount of blood can carry enough of the virus to cause infection. Most commonly, transmission occurs through sharing injecting equipment. Other routes of transmission include sharing personal items like toothbrushes, razors, unsterile tattoo and piercing equipment and needle-stick and sharps injuries in medical settings.

In the past, sexual activity was thought to be low risk for hep C transmission. However, there are now increasing number of cases occurring among gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM), particularly among those men living with HIV. Although some of these cases relate to sharing of injecting equipment, the majority of transmission has occurred through fucking (anal sex) without a condom.

Fucking without condoms is the main risk for the sexual transmission of hep C. This risk is increased by any sex that further increases the risk of damage or injury to the lining of the anus, such as fisting, prolonged (long-lasting) sex sessions rough sex (especially during party drug use) and group sex. Sharing unwashed sex toys can also be a risk. Each of these situations involves potential exposure to blood, bleeding or broken skin, allowing entry into the bloodstream, and therefore, potential exposure to the hep C virus.


The current treatment for hepatitis C is a combination of drugs that aim to clear the virus from your body and to prevent the progression to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer or liver failure. Medications called pegylated interferon and ribarivin have greatly improved the outcomes for people with hepatitis C, helping decrease liver inflammation and clearing the virus in 30 to 80 per cent of people.

Some people with hepatitis C may not be suitable candidates for currently available treatments. This could be due to several things, such as how much the infection has progressed, older age, the strain of virus and other health issues. Treatment can have side effects ranging from mild to very severe. Some strains of hepatitis C respond better to treatment than others. Unfortunately, not everyone clears the virus, even after completing treatment. This is not to say that they will never clear the virus, trying other treatments or repeating the treatment is a possibility. Either way, the sooner someone finds out they have hepatitis C the better the outcome they can have with treatments.

Some people can manage their symptoms with complementary therapies and lifestyle changes. Generally speaking, people who have hepatitis C will feel better if they; avoid drinking alcohol and using drugs (which are processed by the liver); eat a well-balanced, low-fat diet; and exercise regularly.

For people with both HIV and hepatitis C, treatment for both of these can be more complicated. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.

For people who do not clear hepatitis C, it can be monitored with liver function tests. It is important to understand that if you have had the infection and “cleared” the virus, symptoms can reappear at a later stage. Also, there are 6 different types of hepatitis C, so if you are infected with one type, you can still become infected with another strain which makes it more difficult to treat hepatitis C infections.

Tell us your story

Tell us your story


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