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 28. I moved from Taiwan to New Zealand when I was 16. We went to Christchurch first and that was awful; I don't know how I coped. I moved to Auckland just after I turned 21. That was to get away from my parents really - that's not the only reason.
I was hairdressing when I was in Christchurch and I became quite good friends with the guy I worked with. He was straight but he was very metrosexual. His brother was moving to Auckland so I followed him and I stayed with him for a while to start with and then I worked as a waiter for a while.
I moved to Australia just over a year ago. I moved with a friend of mine. We used to flat together in Auckland: we became really good friends. We both wanted to come here so when I finished my study I said we might as well go together. So we did.
I went to London when I was about 23. In Auckland one of my friends had been to London and he said why don't you go there and have a look? So I did and I had the best time of my life there; it's great.
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I was working in cafes in quite a busy street in Auckland. Obviously there's a lot of passing traffic and one day there was a guy who walked past and gave me the look. It turned out we met in a club a few months earlier. I did have his number but I never called back. I don't know how I got the courage but this time I gave him a call - I wasn't even pissed.
My first time was crap
He told me he lived in an apartment somewhere in town, so I drove to his place. We were supposed to have a few coffees and see what happens but he invited me up there and before I could say a word he pushed me into the bedroom, pulled my pants down and that was that. It was only a blowjob. And then I left. But it didn't feel so good. People say you always remember your first time but that was crap.
My first anal sex
My first anal sex was probably in a cruising club, one much like Ten Plus and I don't even know who the guy was. I'd been out the night before: I was still pissed and horny and I'd never been to a place like that before - well, I'd been, but only with friends; I'd never actually done anything. Anyway, that night I wound up horny so I decided to see what I could find. I walked around but I couldn't find anything and I decided to be a bit adventurous and walked into the pitch-black back bit. The next minute I felt someone groping me and that was it; it happened right there in the alley.
He started to touch me and pulled my pants down. I put a condom on him and he turned me around and stuck it in me. It was so painful the whole time; I didn't think he even used any lube. I just wanted him to stop. At the end, I had enough and pushed him away and walked off. That was so shit and put me off anal sex for a while, till I met someone who knew how to do it properly, anyway.
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I knew I was gay from quite young. In Taiwan, it's not really a topic that people talk about. It's quite conservative and old-fashioned there. I didn't even know about the term gay until I moved to New Zealand.
I knew I always liked to play with the boys - in more ways than one.
And I realised that when I watched TV or went to see a movie I paid more attention to the guys than the girls. I don't know how old I was but I always knew that I prefer guys.
When I was working at the hairdresser's in Auckland there was one token straight hairdresser but the rest were queens. They actually helped me because I was in denial at the time. I was still buying girls presents on their birthdays and stuff but they all knew I was gay because I was lusting over the guy I was working with - the straight one - and everyone could see it.
I thought I was covering it over pretty well but everyone knew. I was working there one day and my boss just came up to me and looked me straight in the eye and said, "Are you gay?" I was like, "Oh, yeah". And he was like, "Thank god; we all knew!" So, he was the first person I told. I told another girl I worked and she told me they all knew already. It was quite easy for me because all my friends were gay already, or people who socialised with gays.
His brother is a god
I was having a bit of a hard time telling the straight guy I worked with because he's got two brothers and we were all really close friends. His younger brother is just a god - and of course I was lusting after him as well - and he's the captain of a football club in high school and you know how those guys can get, so I was having a really hard time telling him. But he was fine; he was like, "We knew, already", so no big surprise.
I don't go around telling people I'm gay but if they ask I just tell them I am. It depends: in some situations you don't go in waving the rainbow flag...
I told my family a few years later. I told my parents over the phone. I was in Auckland and they were still in Christchurch. All my friends told me I should tell them - that they should know - and so I did. I called them up one night and I told them I'm gay. They said they kind of knew already - after 22 years and no girlfriends they got the gist - so it wasn't that difficult telling them either. We never brought the subject up again since. We just don't talk about it: they don't ask anything and I don't tell them anything.
He told me to see a psychiatrist
I got really pissed off with my older brother about this though; he's about thirty. After I told my parents I told my brother - I can't remember how - and he told me to see a psychiatrist to see if I can be fixed. I told him, basically, "Fuck off". We've hardly spoken since.
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I'd heard about HIV but I never knew what it was. You saw it on the news all the time - you saw how many people were infected in Africa and stuff but I never knew it was a gay related disease. I knew HIV is not curable and that it's mainly transmitted by sexual activities, but I didn't know a great deal apart from that. I do know a lot more know.
Once I got to London, because there were such a huge number of people living over there with HIV, I got to know about it. I used to work with a guy who had HIV and he had had it for quite a few years.
I've had an HIV test. It was actually really late; probably in 2005, before I came to Australia. Before I moved here I went to Sydney Mardi Gras with my friends. I was really drunk one night and went to a sauna somewhere and I couldn't remember if the guy wore a condom or not. I waited for a few months and I went and got tested and I was fine. The test came out negative. My last HIV test was probably in mid-2006. I get tested every six months or whenever I feel there's a need for it.
Do I know my HIV status now? I'm hoping I'm HIV negative but I'm due for another test next month. I had three HIV tests in 2005 because I was on PEP for a while and I had to go back and get tested again after it was over.
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When I took PEP I didn't have the diarrhoea, which was good, but the nausea can be really annoying: it's like walking around with a hangover all day every day for a month. But it's better than testing positive so I think I got off lightly.
I took PEP because I went to a particular club - I won't mention the name - and I had sex with someone without a condom and I was fucking him. I know the risks are lower when you're the top but I was still worried about it. Alcohol played a part in my having unprotected sex with a stranger.
PEP is quite painful
PEP is quite painful; you're just sick all the time. I was actually really quiet during that month; I couldn't even be bothered to talk to my friends because I felt so sick all the time. I'll definitely be more careful in the future.
I was a bit disappointed with myself but what can you do; it happened. I felt really belittled when I was in the hospital getting PEP because when I told the nurse I volunteered with the AIDS Council she said, "I could slap you!" She was joking but I was really embarrassed while I was waiting for the drugs to come.
I make much more effort to look after myself now because I'm not getting any younger. I go to gym and I bike to work every day and I do make an effort of eating health food and vegetables, fruits...
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I'm not in a relationship... so, if anyone's reading out there; I'm available! I've never been in a relationship; I'm cursed; I don't know why. I'm always interested in the guys that wouldn't be interested in the category that I fall into. I'm more like a twink, clean, baby-faced with no hair and I'm into the complete opposite. I'm into hairy men with hair coming out of their arseholes. And generally they tend to be into types like themselves, hence the clubs for bears and cubs and what have you.
I have had a fling every now and again. When I first went to the UK I met this guy and we went out for three weeks but I wouldn't call that a relationship. He was my first one as well and after three weeks I told him, "I don't find you attractive at all; I was just doing it for the sake of doing it". It was too much effort.
The second fling happened after I came back from London I went back to Auckland to study and I met a Scottish guy there. My flatmate was working at Borders and he knew a guy there from Scotland who was also gay. I went into the bookshop one day and I saw him and he was just gorgeous. I went in one day and I don't know where I got the courage - again I wasn't pissed - I just went up to him and said, "Would you like to go out some time?" and to my surprise he said yes. So we went out for about three weeks. Everything was perfect; it was exactly what I wanted, however his visa ran out after three weeks so he had to go back to Scotland. We did keep in contact after that and I went back to Edinburgh to see him a few years back, but things just kind of fizzled out.
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I have casual sex - not as often as I want to but I do have it now and then, when the stars align in a certain pattern! I probably go through all channels: on-line - websites - and I did try a couple of parks and mainly saunas, because obviously everyone goes there for the same reason, so it's easier - well, it should be. Doesn't work out all the time.
I prefer to be fucked but, if push comes to shove, I'll fuck as well. Blowjobs are just part of the package... I always use condoms in saunas because they're right there and you can just reach for them, but in clubs it's a bit tricky because I'm always intoxicated and I can get a bit lazy at that stage. And if the other person doesn't have them, normally I'll ask them to get one, but there have been times when I just went for it.
I don't think I'll fuck someone or get fucked in parks because it's too dirty - you get mud everywhere. But in saunas I always use a condom. Online, because it will either be their place or mine, there are always condoms.
It's up to you
Just say, "Do you have a condom?" or, "Can you bring a condom?" because I reckon there's a lot of assuming going on; if you don't mention using condoms people automatically assume that you're positive and that you don't really care either way - so there's as much responsibility on you as there is on them to raise the topic. I've heard from my friends who are positive that when you don't request to use a condom they just assume that you are positive already because, even though there's the risk of superinfection, if you've got HIV already why use a condom?
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Two guys I've had sex with have told me they were positive before we had sex but usually there's not much talking going on in sex clubs and saunas; you pretty much exchange looks and off you go - but I always make an effort of wearing a condom. I never talk about it and I don't expect people to tell me either because I don't reckon it matters if you're using a condom.
I get really mad with my friends sometimes because I've gone home with a few guys who were positive and I always tell my friends afterwards and they get really angry with me, saying why put yourself in that situation; why take that risk? And I tell them as long as you play safe - it's not that easy to get it - but they have got a very bad attitude towards people who are HIV positive. They don't mind being friends with them but as far as having sex is concerned they won't go near them.
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For me, it's definitely easier to pick up someone if you've had something to drink beforehand because your confidence goes up and your standards come down! Normally, if I arrange to meet someone, or go to a sauna or a sex club, I'll have a few drinks first. I blame my upbringing, because I was brought up in Taiwan by my very old fashioned conservative parents and sex was always like a very dirty thing that we never talked about - even sex education was only introduced to high school very recently. It's just a no-go zone in most families; there are families who are quite open-minded and talk about it, but not mine.
So when I was growing up I thought sex was always a really bad thing and that you shouldn't do it unless necessary.
And when I first moved to New Zealand it was very different because everyone there - especially in the gay community - everyone's pretty much a slapper.
I'm a bit better now, but whenever I want to have sex with someone - to go to pick up someone - I'll have a few drinks first to loosen up. Otherwise I'll be too nervous.
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I joined Outreach at the VAC because I'd just moved to Melbourne and I wanted to meet new people and hopefully be friends with someone. It sounds corny, but I also wanted to do something for the community - do my bit to help out. I was reading a book called Like People in History. It's a beautiful book - it's a love story about two gay guys and one died of AIDS - so I thought, that's it, I'm going to do something about it.
I'd love to go back to UK but as I can't work there's no point. I was wanting to get married - a civil partnership - over there but no-one was willing to participate. I think I'll be here in Melbourne for a while: some friends from London are coming back here to settle in a couple of years so I'll be here in Melbourne for probably ten years at least. I'd love to go back to New Zealand and settle there eventually, but not yet; it's just too quiet over there. Hopefully I'll have a partner - from this weekend onwards! We'll see how we go!
Ethan was born in Taiwan
Ethan's family moved to Christchurch, NZ when he was 16
Ethan moved to Auckland when we was 21 and worked as a waiter
Ethan spent some time in London when we was 23
Ethan moved to Melbourne with a friend about a year ago