HIV and LGBTI health advocates are encouraging Mardi Gras revellers to look after themselves and their mates during this year’s party season, especially in relation to HIV, sexual health, alcohol and other drugs, and street safety.
An important part of the Mardi Gras festival is about ensuring health and safety is front of mind, whilst enjoying everything it has to offer. ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill says Mardi Gras is all about celebrating who we are as a community and having a great time doing it.
“Playing safe will help partygoers have a much more enjoyable Mardi Gras experience,” says Mr Parkhill. “ACON recommends a range of measures for a healthy, fun and safe Mardi Gras.”
Practice Safe Sex – Now There Are 3 Ways To Do It!
Condoms play a vital role in preventing the transmission of HIV and other STIs, and with 60,000 of our free condom packs at LGBTI venues and events during the Mardi Gras season, it’s the cheapest and easiest way to stay safe. “However, If a person is HIV negative, they can now take PrEP, an antiretroviral drug that prevents HIV negative people from becoming infected,” says Mr Parkhill.
“And if a person is HIV positive, it’s now proven beyond doubt that HIV treatments can help reduce that person’s viral load to an undetectable level, making it almost impossible to transmit the virus. There’s no longer a one size fits all approach to safe sex. We can now choose from a range of strategies – condoms, PrEP or UVL – to maximise sexual pleasure while protecting ourselves and our partners from HIV.” To find out more visit endinghiv.org.au.
PEP – Act Quickly!
If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV, PEP may prevent you becoming infected – if you act quickly. “PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) is a course of anti-HIV medications taken over a four week period, but needs to be started as soon as possible after exposure – within 72 hours. PEP is NOT a substitute for safe sex – using condoms is always the best prevention.” says Mr Parkhill. More information is at the 24-hour PEP Hotline: 1800 737 669.
Get Tested – Know For Sure
ACON operates a permanent rapid HIV testing facility on Oxford Street, Darlinghurst along with services in Surry Hills, Newtown and Kings Cross. “Rapid testing provides results within 30 minutes. a[TEST] Oxford St is located at 167 Oxford St and operates between 11.00am – 7.00pm, Monday to Saturday. Just walk in or make an appointment by visiting atest.org.au.”
“Knowing your HIV status means you can take action to look after your health and the health of your partners. And getting more gay men to test more often is the only way we can reach our goal of ending HIV transmission in NSW by the end of the decade, so I urge gay guys to get tested this Mardi Gras season.”
LGV – Be Aware
LGV stands for ‘lymphogranuloma venereum’. It’s a sexually transmitted infection caused by a certain type of Chlamydia bacteria. LGV bacteria gets into the body through tiny abrasions of the skin and the warm moist mucus lining of the mouth, penis or inside of the rectum.
During sex, friction can cause minute abrasions in mucosal surfaces that allow the bacteria to enter the body. Mr Parkhill says “Anal sex without condoms is the easiest way this happens. As with all STIs, LGV can be asymptomatic and it can be passed on by someone who doesn’t know they have it, so make sure you get tested. More information can be found at endinghiv.org.au.”
Alcohol and Drugs – Reduce Harm
Mr Parkhill says reducing the harms associated with alcohol and other drugs is also important. “There are often new drugs emerging or drugs that have different strengths. It’s important to know as much as you can about what you are taking. Mixing G and alcohol continues to be a key cause of overdose.”
“It’s important to tell someone you trust what you’ve taken, and to get help immediately if it’s needed. Also, the ACON Rovers will be at all the major parties to help people experiencing any difficulties.” Visit the ACON website: acon.org.au for information and advice about partying safely.
Fair Play – Know Your Rights
“There will be significant police operations at selected Mardi Gras events, which will involve sniffer dogs and, in some cases, personal searches for drugs,” says Mr Parkhill. “If police want to search you, it’s best to cooperate and not show aggression as this behaviour has sometimes resulted in charges against people.”
To help partygoers understand their legal rights during the Mardi Gras season Mardi Gras, the Inner City Legal Centre and us support an initiative called Fair Play which involves volunteers being on hand at the Mardi Gras party to provide information on rights and legal support, offer emotional support and monitor police operations. Information about rights and safety is available on the Fair Play website: www.fair-play.org.au.
Street Safety – Report Violence
Mr Parkhill says keeping safe on the street is also key to having a great Mardi Gras. “To avoid homophobic and transphobic violence, we recommend partygoers travel to and from venues with friends, avoid responding to abusive behaviour as this can escalate violence and get to a safe place if they feel threatened.
All violence and harassment should be reported to police for immediate action because if the types of violence are on the public record, then agencies such as ACON can lobby for improved security for our community.” Information on reporting violence to the police or to us is available on our website: acon.org.au
Image: ACON Party Rover (supplied)