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.

How to Protect Myself

When having anal sex

The best way to protect yourself against catching or passing on HIV and other STIs is to use condoms with water-based or silicon based lubricant. Using condoms may not feel very natural at first and some people find they lose their erection if they use condoms, however, this is usually due to not having the correct sized condoms. Condoms can be a fun part of foreplay and sex so experiment with them a little so that you feel comfortable using them as well as know which brands/sizes suit your best.

Sometimes while getting ready to fuck (anal sex), it can be tempting to just stick the head in without first putting on a condom. This is risky because pre-cum also carries HIV. You’re better off putting the condom on while you play around so that you are able to do what you want without breaking the mood mid way.

If you’re fucking in a group situation make sure you change condoms every time you fuck a different guy. The same goes for toys. A good rule of thumb is: replace the condom every time you or a toy goes into a different person.

Is there any safe way to have unprotected anal sex?

The safest way to fuck without condoms is with a long-term partner with whom you’ve been tested for HIV together, then tested again three months later. For this process to work, partners need to continue using condoms with each other (and with any casual partners) until they get the second test results.

Visit the Erections, condoms and lube page to learn more about how condoms work and how to use them correctly.

If both partners' test results are still negative the second time, and neither of them has had any risk of exposure to HIV in the period between the two tests, then they can be reasonably sure that they are both HIV negative and can stop using condoms with each other.

In order to work, the process requires a high level of discussion and trust between the partners about always using condoms if they have sex with anyone else and being honest with each other if one of them breaks this agreement. It can be a difficult conversation to have if your relationship is monogamous, however, it is better to have a clear discussion before it happens rather than try and figure it out at the time.

Many HIV-positive men choose to have unprotected sex with other HIV-positive men. Whilst there is no longer a risk of transmitting HIV you still run the risk of getting other STIs which will impact on your viral load or even severely interfere with your general health and HIV treatments, such as Hepatitis C.

When giving or receiving head (oral sex)

HIV transmission through giving or receiving head can happen, but is quite rare. In fact, there are no documented cases of HIV being transmitted through oral sex in Australia.  The best way to think about it is that HIV transmission through oral sex is that it’s physically possible but biological improbable. However, when it does happen, it’s usually passed on from the person who was being sucked to the person who was sucking and mainly because there are several factors at play, such as cuts or abrasions in the mouth, having recent dental work etc.

Have a look at the list below for more details about increased risk of HIV transmission through oral sex. As HIV is less likely to be transmitted through oral sex it is considered a low risk activity, however, if you want to eliminate this risk entirely then use condoms when giving someone head. However here are some other pointers to help you minimize the risk. 

1) Avoid brushing your teeth just before giving head. Whilst you may really want to for that minty fresh feeling, brushing your teeth can cause micro cuts in the mouth and increase your risk of HIV getting into your bloodstream.

2) Get regular dental checkups to maintain good oral health as well as regular STI checkups including throat swabs. Remember there are lots of STIs that like to hang out in the back of throats.

3) Before you give head, it is a good idea to gargle with warm salt water to see if any stinging occurs. If it does, it is likely you have cuts in your mouth and should not be giving any blow jobs as there is a risk of HIV transmission. It is understandable that in the heat of the moment you will not pause to have a quick gargle, so it could be useful to make it a habit before you meet up with someone.

The risk of HIV transmission during oral sex increases if:

  • The person being sucked has a high viral load.
  • The person being sucked has cuts or sores on their cock.
  • The person sucking has cuts or sores in their mouth.

4)     The person sucking has ulcers, dental disease, recent dental treatment, gingivitis (inflamed or bleeding gums), prescribed or non-prescribed drugs (including amphetamines) that irritate oral tissues, allergies, trauma, piercings or oral Herpes.

5)     The person sucking gets cum (semen) in their mouth. If cum does get into your mouth, do one of two things; if it’s at the back of your mouth – swallow it, if it’s at the front of your mouth, spit it out. Either way, try and minimise the time the cum is sitting and sloshing around in case you have any cuts or abrasions in your mouth.  

If you’re going down on someone and they have cuts or sores on their cock, it’s probably a good idea to put the brakes on. These cuts or sores could be the result of an STI. Whilst this can be an awkward conversation to have it may prevent your exposure to an STI. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to them about it then you can always use the anonymous partner notification tool on the drama down under website. There’s also a good chance that your hands will have come into contact with his cock, so you may already have been exposed. Get an STI check if you think you may have been exposed.

When fingering or fisting

Fisting involves inserting fingers, which are kept pointing straight and close together inside another man's or your own arse until the hand is inserted. The use of gloves is highly recommended to minimise the transmission risk of HIV and other STIs such as Hep C. Try to use powder-free gloves as pre-powdered gloves may irritate the arse.

Because the tissue of the rectum is delicate and tears easily, it’s possible to have microscopic amounts of blood present during fisting. This blood can carry enough Hep C virus (HCV) to be a transmission risk. The Hep C virus can survive for long periods of time outside the body and the virus is highly contagious, so particular care needs to be taken with gloves and clean lube when fisting. In addition, the presence of the tiniest amount of shit during fisting means that other STIs such as Hep A and Shigellacan be passed on too. Take extra care to keep any shit away from the eyes, open sores and the mouth. It is always a good idea to wash your hands after fisting or fingering, even if you were wearing gloves as the hand used to take the glove off may have shit or trace amounts of blood on it.

When it comes to fisting there is no such thing as too much lube. Use plenty of lube not only to minimise the risk of breaking skin, but to get the maximum pleasure out of the experience. It is best to avoid lubricant that may be contaminated, which means that it is best to have your own and not to share with others who may also be fisting other people. If you are fisting more than one person wash your hands with warm water and plenty of soap in between people. Don't forget to wash your arms too and make sure you change gloves for each guy you fist.

Water based lubes (e.g. Wet Stuff, Glyde, KY) tend to dry quicker than others, getting gummy and sticky, making them less than ideal in a fisting situation. Since latex gloves break and degrade on contact with oil based lubes (e.g. Vaseline or Crisco, the latter being the preferred lube for fisting), the solution is to use polyurethane and nitrile (PVC) gloves/ condoms which you can get from VAC/GMHC

If you decide not to use condoms but want to cut the risk of HIV being passed on, think about fucking first, then fisting. Fisting first is more likely to cause bleeding in the arse, making bare backing afterwards especially risky for passing on or picking up HIV. Don’t forget that bare backing is a high risk way for HIV to be transmitted.

If bleeding occurs, you should note the colour, is it dark or pink, is it gushing blood from a fresh wound? A little bit of blood mixed in with lube shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Noticeable quantities of bright red blood are a sign to stop. If there is more than a small amount of blood in the stool a few hours after play don't delay -- get medical attention as soon as possible. Be honest about what has happened so that your doctor can give you an accurate diagnosis of what the problem is, otherwise you may get all kinds of incorrect or dangerous diagnoses.

When injecting

Safe Injecting practices are vital to anyone who chooses to use injecting as their preferred method of ingesting their drugs. It only takes an invisible drop of someone else’s infected blood to expose you to HIV (and/or Hep C). Here are a few tips on how to minimise your chances of contracting an infection or a blood borne virus:

  • Always use new injecting equipment every time you inject drugs. VAC/GMHC offers a needle and syringe exchange program, however there are many others around Australia; find your local one at www.serviceseeker.com.au
  • Wash your hands before and after injecting. Try maintaining a clean area; you can use a sheet of plastic or a garbage bag, and put all your equipment on top.
  • Use sterile equipment and avoid sharing – needles, syringes, swabs, spoons filters, water and tourniquets.
  • Place all used injecting equipment into a special sharps disposal unit/hard plastic/glass bottle and return it to your needle exchange.
  • Dispose of your plastic surface by sealing it in two plastic bags and binning it.
  • Any blood spills should be wiped up with bleach immediately.

When tattooing

Make sure body artists use new and sterile equipment for tattooing, body piercing and other body art.

What if I get infected? What is Post-Exposure Prophylaxis? (PEP)
Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is offered to healthcare workers who get needle-stick industries or individuals who may have been exposed to HIV. If you think you have been infected with HIV in some way, or there is the possibility that you have come into contact with it within the past 72 hours, go to the doctor immediately and get PEP. Make sure you fully disclose as truthfully as you can to the doctor what activities you’ve been up to. Even if you were completely smashed from drinking (or partying) too much and you can’t remember, make sure you mention that too. If you do take PEP it has to be within 72 hours from the time you got exposed. PEP consists of antiretroviral drugs taken over a 4 week period. There can be some unpleasant side effects such as cramps, vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches and tiredness.

There is no guarantee that PEP will prevent an HIV infection, but it greatly reduces the chances. It’s a complicated treatment that often consists of a combination of at least two antiretroviral drugs taken together and you must stick to the treatment plan.

If you do take the PEP it’s important to remember that it’s not a morning after pill and should not replace safe sex practices. To prevent transmission of HIV it is best to always use condoms and lube.

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