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March 31, 2014 | by  | in Features Homepage |
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Love Your Condom

Trak Gray is the Social Marketing Coordinator for Gay & Bi Men, and the Communications Officer at Love Your Condom. LYC is an organisation that promotes condom use and safe sex. For more, check out their website:  www.loveyourcondom.co.nz

When I told my parents I was gay, the two biggest concerns they had were the Aunt-Petunia-like “What will the neighbours think?” worry, and the thought that I will contract HIV and end up dying young. In my life, I had only seen gay men as hot and healthy sex symbols; the AIDS crisis of the ‘80s was a part of history that happened far away in San Francisco, and the only other people with HIV were all African, right? My parents were just stuck in their generation and didn’t know what it’s like to be a gay teenager these days.

Now, as much as my parents are quite stuck in the mindset of their respective generation, their latter concern actually held more validity than I had realised. The truth of the matter is that sexually transmitted infections are a major health risk for men who have sex with men, and not all of them can be fixed up with an embarrassing trip to the doctor.

When I started sexing guys, I really didn’t know a lot about what it actually meant to get an STI; at the bones of it, the two most common types of infection are bacterial and viral. Bacterial infections like syphilis, gonorrhoea and chlamydia can be cured with antibiotics; well, if you get them treated quickly, they can. If you put off going to the doctor, like with any infection, they can turn pretty horrible and even end up life-threatening. Viral infections like HIV are a bit nastier, because once the virus is in your system it makes a home for itself, and instead of curing the infection you will be given meds to manage the amount of virus in your blood.

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. Once a person contracts HIV, it can be in their system for a long time, in some cases more than a decade, without showing any symptoms. The virus attacks by weakening a person’s immune system, and when the body gets to the point whee it can’t defend itself, an opportunistic infection like tuberculosis, hep A, or a bunch of different cancers come along and become an AIDS-defining illness.

So why is this a problem for guys who fuck guys? Well, if you have bareback (unprotected) sex with another guy, your chance of passing on or contracting HIV is 18 times higher than with unprotected vaginal sex; it’s just how butts work. Of the 2000 people living with HIV in New Zealand, 80 per cent are men who have sex with men, and in Auckland, 1 in 5 gay and bi men with HIV don’t know they’ve got it.

The advances in antiretroviral drugs mean that HIV rarely turns into AIDS anymore, which is pretty amazing. More people are living with the virus who could potentially pass it on, but getting a test and knowing your status is free, and it’s no longer as terrifying as it used to be. More than this however, the best part about banging other guys in 2014 is that a condom is all it takes to be able to fuck to your heart’s content.

It’s really a no-brainer: condoms are pretty sweet. They’re easy to get for free, they often come in super-cute packs, and it’s just way hotter to have sex with a guy when you can spend the whole time concentrating on how awesome your partner (or partners) is, and not if you’re going to end up with the clap.

Whether we’re on the scene or keep more to ourselves, we are all part of New Zealand’s gay community in some capacity or another. We owe it to our gay and bisexual brothers to be safe when we’re being sexy.

 

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