Condoms Key To Ending HIV, Says ACON

carry_onA new HIV prevention campaign targeting gay men is reinforcing the crucial importance of condom use to ending the transmission of HIV in NSW by the end of the decade, according to the latest press release from ACON.

The I’m On campaign is the next stage of the agency’s Ending HIV initiative which aims to inform gay men about action they can take to help eliminate the transmission of the HIV virus from NSW by 2020.

ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill says the new campaign is focused on encouraging gay men to use condoms by giving them information about risk assessment, how to use condoms, the health and social benefits of safe sex, and locations where they can get free condoms. Parkhill said,

“The need to ‘stay safe’ is one of the three core messages we’re promoting through our Ending HIV initiative, and it’s the one we’re focussing on with this phase of the campaign.

“Our other messages – ‘test more’ and ‘treat early’ – relate to advances in testing technologies and HIV medicines that are useful for increasing detection and treatment of HIV.

“However, condoms remain central to the fight against HIV because they’re still the most effective way of preventing HIV transmission, and we won’t be able to achieve our goal of ending the HIV epidemic in NSW by the end of the decade unless gay men use condoms when they’re having high-risk sex with casual partners, particularly in situations where a partner’s HIV status isn’t known. It’s that simple.”

Parkhill stressed that ACON was not advocating replacing condoms with other prevention strategies, but adding new strategies alongside them.

“To be clear, our Ending HIV strategy is not about replacing condoms with increased testing and early treatment, it’s about strengthening our prevention response by reinforcing condom use among gay men and then adding increased testing and early treatment to the prevention mix.”

Parkhill says research from the University of NSW’s Centre for Social Research in Health indicates that the reported level of unprotected anal intercourse (UAIC) that gay men are having with casual partners has increased by about 20% over the last 15 years.

“A comparative analysis of data from the Sydney Gay Periodic Survey since 1996 shows men reporting any incidence of UAIC in the six months prior to being surveyed increased from 15% in 1996 to 36% in 2012. And the use of negotiated safety agreements, where couples agree to practice safe sex outside of their relationship, has declined by about 10% over the same period, with 48% of couples having agreements in 2012 as opposed to 58% of couples in 1996.”

Parkhill went on to say that this showed the need for more education about condoms and safe sex in our community, and hoped it would encourage gay men to use condoms and practice safe sex, not only in terms of their health, but for the bigger cause of eradicating the HIV virus.

Updated information about safe sex practice has been incorporated into the Ending HIV website and social media sites, including updates to the campaign’s condom geo-finder which provides information about venues throughout NSW that offer free condoms.

The campaign will be heavily promoted over the next three months across LGBTI, mainstream and social media. The campaign will also appear on bus shelters, street panels and City of Sydney street banners in areas where gay men live, work and play.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)