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 34 years old and I grew up in Mexico City although I was born in the southern part of the Gulf of Mexico in a small city named Coatzacoalcoz in the state of Veracruz. I come from a family of six, my parents, three brothers and me. I’m the youngest of four boys. My Mum had a handful with four boys, but she knew how to manage the situation. My childhood was really difficult because in Mexico, it’s a very catholic country and a very “macho society”. I discovered that I was gay when I was four, a very young age. The reason I knew was because I had sexual intercourse with my cousin, he was a teenager at the time. I don't know if I can say he raped me or something; it wasn’t that. It was sort of like seduction. But he liked me, so I started my sexual activity at four. And since then I always have liked men, especially older men. It’s such a coincidence: I haven’t had a partner or a boyfriend younger than me, ever.
Growing up as a gay boy was very difficult. My father used to hit me if I acted very queeny. He just hit me in the face and sometimes he cut my lips and made me bleed.
So that was very harsh. He was very tough with me and I think eventually he got used to it. Maybe he was hoping that someday I was going to change, but I never did. I wasn’t picked on in school. I would say in secondary school others were picked on. Someone I knew was picked on because he was very effiminate and they all made fun of him. But it was very difficult, I hid my sexuality all the time but I picked on others. I really regret that attitude because nobody at the time was telling you me, “Okay, this is wrong.” I have to admit it was wrong that I did pick on some students.
I had my first boyfriend at 12. He was a 32 year old man, and I realised I was in love with him. I fell in love with him and it was a very deep love. I didn’t tell my parents or my brothers, or my friends anything. It was all very secret. Then my family moved to another part of the city so the relationship ‘broke up’. It never worried me about the age difference and whether it was illegal because of the age difference. At the time I didn’t know that it was illegal, and well, I had no need to know it. I mean, if I would have told my parents, “Okay, I’m having sex with this guy,” they would have said, “Oh my God!” and this guy would be in jail now. So I knew for this guy it was wrong but I don't regret it at all. I know that sounds a little bit crazy but I was pretty naive about those issues.
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At 17 I had my first formal partner. I fell very deeply in love with this guy.
I was 17 and he was 36. When I was 18 years old, we broke up. For the first time and I confessed to my mum that I was gay because I was really sad.
My mum sort of knew it and she was crying at the same time with me when I confessed to her. I just confessed, “Okay, I’m gay. So that’s why I’m crying and I have a boyfriend whom I broke up with today.” She was really supportive and I think that she told everybody else that I was gay. So I suppose she managed really well and I didn’t get any aggression from my brothers or my father for that issue. So I suppose she let them know eventually at the right moment by saying “Okay, this happened with your brother.”
Then we got back together again and were together for six years. I was 17 when we met and I was 22 or 23 when we finally broke up. I went to live with him when I was 21. I moved in with him so I was on his territory and it became really difficult. Although, I have to admit that the beginning was lovely, I enjoyed it, but I soon realised that it was not normal. It was a very sick relationship at the end. He was really possessive. He wanted to always dominate me because I was much younger than him. I got sick of it. I wanted my freedom so desperately and to go home to my family. I remember that I couldn’t go out with my friends on the weekend – I’d have to be at home all weekend. He was on his cell phone and he was checking on me all the time, I got sick of that as well. It was always “Where are you? What are you doing?” I thought, ‘No, I don’t need this’. We broke up and I took my things, and went back home. I explained to my parents this is what’s happening. So they understood that as well. I’m very glad they understood and they opened the doors of their house again. So I was very glad being single again.
After that, freedom came to me finally. I was going to university in Mexico City at that time and I really enjoyed going to the many gay discos, bars and events in Mexico. It was a really good feeling, that sensation of freedom. So I used to go out dancing every weekend or every Friday. My father was joking that he wants to put a chain on my legs to not let me out at night. I really enjoyed those times. I made a lot of friends. And I started to cruise with guys at pubs and gay venues. I used to pick up a guy every week. Sometimes it felt like it was going to end up in a relationship but I didn’t allow it to happen because I was a little bit sick of relationships at the time. I needed a break so I was breaking hearts a lot along the way. Many guys during that period of my life, between 23 and 26, were casual relationships. At that time, I have to confess I didn’t take care of myself. However, I knew how to have safe sex, but I didn’t like to use condoms at all so I didn’t. I had sexual intercourse with many guys without a condom, and I didn’t get infected. I got tested once in a while and fortunately, I was negative. Eventually I just started to use condoms because I thought to myself, I’m tired of asking the same question myself “What if this time I got infected”.
In Mexico there are lots of ads on the TV about using condoms. So you always bear that in mind. When you’re having sex with some guys or when you’re not using condoms, you always have the question, “Well what if he’s positive?” So I got myself tested again and I was negative, so I think I was very glad of those moments. But I think it’s kind of a torture, you know. “What if the next guy is positive?” So I decided to use precautions. To be at peace with myself I suppose.
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I developed a relationship another guy, I was 27 at the time and this guy was 56. The sex was really good and we were together for a year-and-a-half. But I realised he was not stable. He wanted to have more sex with other guys so I thought ‘It’s not for me’. You have sex when you’re free, but when you are in a relationship, you are not in an open relationship. I decided to break up and I confessed to him that I didn’t want to be with him anymore. I’ll point out too that maybe it spoiled the relationship when I confessed to him that I wanted to go overseas to study my masters.
I wanted to do a masters in environmental science in New Zealand, but unfortunately the New Zealand government didn’t offer scholarships. So when I was applying for this scholarship I had three options: Helsinki, Chicago and Melbourne. I decided not to go to Finland because it’s very cold, and Chicago has heavy winters. I thought ‘Australia, it’s really warm and has a lot of beaches. It’s also the closest point to New Zealand’. So I ended my relationship at 28 or 29 and then I came to Australia and start my masters degree. I was thinking of going to Sydney where the gay scene is big and have a lot of fun there. But I realised the University of Melbourne was an excellent university, so I did my masters degree there. That was during 2008 and 2010.
I was glad I moved to Australia. I didn’t expect it would be very good. I mean Melbourne is a very cosmopolitan city, and it can get very hot. Many people think Mexico is a very hot country but it’s nothing compared with Australia. In summer you can get to 35℃ in Mexico City; nothing like 45℃ in Melbourne. I was amazed. I think in Australia the weather is harsher. But the people are lovely. People I have met in the gay scene and people I know through my partner are great.
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I met my current partner through the internet: gay.com in 2008. I was having sex with some guys that I had met through the internet and with him I did the same thing. We just had sex and it was see you later. My intention wasn’t to start a relationship because I knew that I wanted to start my PhD at home or in another country. So I was looking at other places to go. And then I met my lovely partner and everything changed.
When I met my partner he was really charming, he’d say “Let’s go have a cup of coffee or let’s go to the movies.” I was getting bored in my apartment being alone or writing essays, or watching TV so I said, “Why not?” He is really charming, caring, tender, etc - that’s why I fell in love with him. He really got into me and he really put an effort to introduce me to the Australian culture, how the Australian people live. He introduced me to barbeques and white wine. I started to appreciate white wine because I think Australians and New Zealanders, they drink a lot of wine and beer. I didn’t drink alcohol when I met him, now I do it without excess.
I confessed to him that I didn’t drink alcohol so if I wanted a good introduction, I think it should be good wine. Something good and you can taste, and really enjoy. But I didn’t enjoy it because I got pissed sometimes with just a glass of wine. I was really ashamed of myself because I was dizzy with one glass. But I made a lot of friends through him. We just had our three year anniversary last month, the relationship has been good. It’s a very stable relationship.
We got tested because honestly speaking who likes to wear condoms? So I think it’s really good not having them. So we got tested together and we went to the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre. We got asked many questions together and I was a little bit ashamed of that because we had to disclose how many guys we have had sex with in the past. So it was full disclosure of each other’s adventures. We got tested together (twice) and we were both negative. Since then we don't use condoms because it’s safe in this way, and we are monogomous.
We went back to Mexico together and it was really good. My father just loved him because he has the same name as my father, in Spanish. We really enjoyed it a lot. He only met my mum for one day because she was visiting my other brother in Mexico City. My parents live in a very small town called Colima on the Pacific coast. We spent a lot of time in Colima, and then we travelled to Mexico City to see my mum and my brothers.
I have a very homophobic brother and we don't talk to each other. He’s schizophrenic and he doesn’t want to talk to me because I’m gay.
Despite that I think the relationship with my parents is wonderful now. The man who used to hit me when I was a kid (my father) now loves me very much so he has changed. I’m really pleased and it’s sort of like breathing freely without such a burden of hiding your sexuality. So my third brother didn’t see us because he’s sick and he didn’t want to meet my partner or to see me.
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I moved in with my partner when I was doing my masters but well before I finished it, we lived together for a year and a half. Then I went back to Mexico to work and make preparations for my scholarship to do my PhD so we were separated for a while. Not having him by my side was really difficult, not having sex with other guys like I used to. I watched porn movies or downloaded pictures off the internet. I was living alone while working in Mexico City. It was really hard but I thought no, I value my safety and I love my partner. So I just dealt with it.
We thought about opening the relationship but it really hurt me, mainly because of my values. I said, “Okay, let me think about it.” When we talked about that stuff again, he put it on the table, I said, “No, well, if you want to do it, just go ahead, but don't tell me.”
I think it would be really selfish if I tell him just don't do anything while I’m overseas. That would have been really selfish on my part. So I managed that by telling him, “Well I’m going to stay this way.” So he said, “Okay. I’m going to agree with that.” I suppose I coped with it really well. It was a test.
Then I came back to Melbourne and lived with him again and it’s been good. Sometimes we disagree in some minor things. Not because of the relationship; because I cannot adjust my timetable to his timetable. We have different personalities and different cultures; sometimes it’s a little bit difficult to adjust to that stuff. We know we love each other but sometimes it’s a little bit difficult to adjust each other’s timetables. I used to think the hardest thing to deal with him is the fact he’s a morning person, I’m not. I’m a night person so I had to wake up every time at five-thirty in the morning because that’s the time he wakes up. I’m used to that now. So sometimes I’m really sleepy during the day because I’m generally working and sometimes I fall asleep. That's the most difficult thing I think, waking up every day at five-thirty. I’m doing well, but sometimes I get a little bit tired at the end of the week.
I think people should take care of their own health. I’ve just been lucky because I did not get infected in Mexico, because if I count my relationships, I just forget the numbers. Don't wait and just do it from the start. Sometimes it’s hard, but the tip that I would give is to always grab a condom. Put a condom in your wallet, have it handy. Sometimes people just grab the condoms in venues or other places but they leave it at home. In Mexico, for example, I used to have sexual intercourse with many guys without condom because I just did not have a condom in my pocket. I would have used it but I just did not have one on my reach. I kept thinking, “Okay, I think this is it, I think I got HIV,” but I was negative. I also doubted the health system and said, “Am I positive?” I asked the clinic to test me again, and I was negative. I felt very lucky. I think just don't wait until that moment to find out, protect yourself.
Angel was born in the small town of Coatzacoalcoz, Veracruz in Mexico.
Where Angel grew up and returned to complete his PhD.
Angel currently lives in Melbourne and completed his Masters at the University of Melbourne
Angel's parents now live here. Angel brought his partner here to introduce him to his parents.