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.

Genital and anal herpes

What is it?

Herpes, caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), is an incredibly common STI. This has a lot to do with the fact that once you have herpes it stays in your system. There are two different types of herpes. Type 1 is usually found in the mouth, and the blisters are commonly known as cold sores. Type 2 is usually found around the cock (penis) or the arse (anus), and are commonly known as genital herpes.  


The main symptom of herpes are cold sores, and the main difference between Type 1 and Type 2 are where the sores actually appear. When you are first exposed to the virus it is common to experience an outbreak of sores. However this may settle down once your body has had a chance to create antibodies which will keep the virus under control. If this happens the virus will become dormant, which means that you won’t have any sores present, however during times of stress or when your immune system is compromised the virus may flair up and you may again experience cold sores.

Not everyone experiences symptoms, however symptoms can often become present between 2 – 30 days after exposure, but can take months or even years to appear. The type and severity of the symptoms will often be different for each person.

Herpes usually starts off as a tingling, itching and burning sensation followed by painful red spots which turn into sores around the cock (penis), arse or mouth. These sores dry up and form scabs; however, blisters do not always occur after infection. In severe cases there can also be pain when pissing (urinating), muscle aches, headaches and fever.

The initial infection is usually the worst and recurrences are usually not as bad, presenting as minor skin irritations. However some people can experience chronic outbreaks. 


Herpes is passed on through skin-to-skin contact. As most forms of sex will include significant skin to skin contact, if you’re fucking (anal sex) or engaging in any other sexual activity with someone who is infected then there’s a chance you’ll be exposed.

 When herpes is transmitted, it tends to stay in the area around the site of infection. It is most common that Type 1 is transmitted from one person’s mouth to another’s mouth, and Type 2 is transmitted from one person’s genitals to another’s genitals. However, a Type 1 infection can appear on or around your cock (often through receiving head) and Type 2 can transmit to the mouth (often through giving head) but this is less common.

Herpes is highly transmissible when a sore is present so if you’re getting all hot and heavy and you see any cuts or sores, it’s probably better to steer clear until the sore has completely healed. It is important to remember that even though there may be not a visible sore or lesion, you can still pass it on to someone else through a process called viral shedding.

To read up more this click on this Viral Shedding link.

When the virus is dormant it is unlikely to be transmitted, viral shedding only occurs when the virus is once again active. Therefore sexual activity can occur without transmission whilst the virus is dormant.


There isn’t a cure for herpes but there are treatments that can control the outbreaks. Treatment can be used to reduce the severity of the symptoms as well as used to suppress them and reduce how often the outbreaks occur.

The antiviral medication available is very effective and is safe to be used over a long period of time. It is best to discuss treatment options for herpes with your doctor, especially if you experience chronic outbreaks.

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