HIV Prevention

We’re here to help end HIV transmission among gay and homosexually active men by helping them test often, treat early and stay safe.

We do this by promoting education campaigns, operating HIV and STI testing facilities, running gay health workshops, providing a range of support services and distributing hundreds of thousands of free condoms every year throughout NSW.

Information

HIV Basics

whatisHIV

What Is HIV & AIDS?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The virus affects the body’s immune system, its main defense against disease. If untreated, HIV weakens the immune system over time, leaving the person who has HIV open to other life-threatening infections.

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome which refers to the range of specific illnesses that a person with HIV may get when their immune system becomes weakened by HIV. It’s possible to have HIV for many years before getting any of the illnesses usually associated with AIDS. For those on effective HIV treatments, the likelihood of receiving an AIDS diagnosis is very small.

Who Does HIV Affect?

HIV can affect anyone. However in New South Wales, the group most affected by HIV is gay and bisexual men who account for around 75% of new HIV diagnoses.

How Is HIV Transmitted?

HIV is transmitted when infected body fluids (blood, semen, vaginal fluids, breast milk or anal mucus) pass from a person with HIV into the bloodstream of an uninfected person.

HIV can be transmitted in a number of ways, but for gay men, anal sex without condoms is the most common way. Other forms of transmission include vaginal sex without condoms and sharing of drug injecting equipment.

How Does HIV Affect Health?

HIV causes significant damage to the immune system over time when left untreated, although the precise impact can vary from person to person. Among other things, a damaged immune system can impact on a person’s ability to fight off infections and illnesses. When someone contracts HIV they may experience something called a ‘seroconversion illness’ which is associated with flu like symptoms. Not everyone will get this illness.

Being on appropriate treatment can reduce the risk of developing a range of health conditions associated with HIV. Studies indicate that starting treatment very soon after infection can make a significant difference.

Many people with HIV consider the condition a manageable illness. With appropriate care, treatment and support, the impact on a person’s health and life expectancy can be greatly reduced.

Find out more about HIV prevention, testing and treatment on our Ending HIV website

HIV Prevention Basics

whodoesHIVeffect

While condoms remain the most effective means of preventing HIV transmission, other useful methods are also available.

Condoms & Lube

Condoms prevent or reduce the exchange of semen, vaginal fluid or blood between partners during sex. When used with lube, condoms are a highly effective way to ‘stay safe’ and prevent HIV transmission.

Condoms also offer protection against a range of other sexually transmissible infections (STIs). They do this by preventing the transfer of bodily fluids or by covering affected genital areas.

Find out more about using condoms and staying safe

Risk Reduction Strategies

In addition to the use of condoms and lube, there are a range of other strategies that reduce, but don’t eliminate, the risk of HIV transmission.

These strategies include: ensuring HIV-negative partners are insertive (i.e. the ‘top’); ensuring partners have the same HIV status (i.e. pos-pos or neg-neg); and ensuring HIV-positive partners have an undetectable viral load. All these strategies carry risks that vary according to practice and circumstance.

Find out more about risk reduction strategies

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is a month-long course of HIV drugs that you can take very soon after sex which had a risk of HIV transmission – and definitely within 72 hours. The drugs are the same ones taken by people with HIV.

If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV, call the 24-hour PEP Hotline as soon as possible – 1800 PEP NOW or 1800 737 669 (inside NSW). Staff on the Hotline will help you find out if you’re eligible for PEP and where you can get it.

You can get PEP from hospital accident and emergency departments, sexual health clinics or doctors who specialise in HIV.

Find out more about PEP

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is the use of HIV medication to keep HIV negative people from contracting HIV. Taking PrEP on a daily basis will ensure that you have enough of the medication in your body to prevent you from becoming infected with HIV if you are exposed.

PrEP offers a high degree of protection, but it’s not 100% effective. Also, PrEP doesn’t prevent the transmission of other STIs, which can, in turn, increase the possibility of HIV infection. As such, people who are using PrEP should consider maintaining condom use, particularly for casual partners.

PrEP is not currently approved for use in Australia, although since mid-2014, it became available in a limited way through research projects in some states including NSW.

Find out more about PrEP

Our Ending HIV Initiative

Help Us End HIV Transmission In NSW By 2020

Our Ending HIV initiative aims to educate gay men – the population group in NSW most at risk from HIV – about the real possibility that HIV transmission in NSW could be virtually eliminated by 2020 as a result of advances in testing technologies and HIV treatments.

The campaign seeks to educate gay men about three key activities they need to undertake to help end the epidemic:

1) Test Often – sexually active gay men need to get tested for HIV at least twice a year, as this is the only way that undiagnosed infections can be decreased and access to treatment can be increased

2) Treat Early – advances in HIV medicines offer improved health benefits for people with HIV and can reduce traces of the virus in their body to an undetectable level, significantly reducing the likelihood of them transmitting HIV

3) Stay Safe – condoms and other risk reduction strategies remain central to the fight against HIV so gay men need to maintain a culture of safe sex

Launched in 2013, the campaign forms a key part of the NSW HIV Strategy 2012-2015, a plan to reduce HIV transmission among gay men in NSW by 80% over the next 10 years.

Find out more about our Ending HIV initiative

Test Often

Knowing your HIV status is now easy as, and it’s vital to efforts to end HIV transmission in NSW by 2020.

Benefits of Testing

Many new HIV transmissions in NSW occur because some gay men think they’re negative when they’re actually positive. That’s because it can take years before HIV symptoms are noticeable. Testing regularly so you know your HIV status allows you to protect your health and the health of your sexual partners.

If you find out you have HIV, you can then take steps to benefit your health, including talking to your doctor about treatment. There are plenty of services available to assist you with a new HIV diagnosis, including many provided by ACON. To find out more, please visit our Newly Diagnosed With HIV section.

Getting gay men to test more is vital to our goal of ending HIV transmission in NSW by 2020. You can help out by getting tested at least twice a year, or up to four times a year if you have more than 10 different partners in 6 months or have sex without condoms.

Getting Tested

Now that rapid HIV testing is available in NSW, testing for HIV is easier than ever, with results available in under 30 minutes.

You can get tested for HIV at any of ACON’s a[TEST] facilities (see below) or any medical or sexual health clinic in NSW.

There are other testing technologies that are being assessed for use in Australia, such as home-based testing kits. More information will be provided on these as they become available.

a[TEST]

ACON provides a range of FREE community-based rapid HIV and STI screening services for gay men in Sydney and in selected regional locations in NSW. To find out more or to make an appointment to get tested in Sydney, please visit www.atest.org.au.

  • Oxford St: 167 Oxford St. Darlinghurst Mon – Fri, 11am – 7pm + Sat 11:30am – 2:30pm
  • Newtown: 222 King St. Mon & Tue 4:20pm – 7:20pm
  • Surry Hills: 414 Elizabeth St. Wed & Thu 3pm – 6:30pm
  • Kings Cross: 180 Victoria St. Sat, 3:30pm – 6:30pm

Find Out More

For more information about HIV testing, please visit our Ending HIV website

Treat Early

By getting on treatment, gay men with HIV can look after themselves and their partners + help end HIV

Benefits of Treatment

We’re urging all gay guys to get tested and if they are diagnosed with HIV, to consider treatment. Treatment keeps your immune system healthy. It reduces the risk of developing health conditions associated with HIV. And recent research, such as the PARTNER study, shows that treatments can lower the viral load of HIV in your blood to virtually undetectable levels, meaning you’re much less likely to pass HIV on to sexual partners.

The most common way for HIV to be transmitted between men is through anal sex without using condoms. The risk is high whether you are topping or bottoming. The higher your level of HIV or viral load (VL), the more likely HIV can be passed on and the lower your viral load is, the less chance you have of passing on HIV.

Who’s On Treatment?

So far, we’ve got a majority, probably 50-60%, of gay men with HIV on treatment in NSW. We need to bump that number up to 90% if we’re going to reach our goal of ending HIV by 2020, so we need everyone to get on board as individuals and as a community.

Why Early Treatment?

You may not know you’ve contracted HIV, but in those early stages your viral load is very high. That greatly increases the risk of HIV transmission. HIV is actually much more likely to be transmitted by people who don’t know they’ve got it – often very soon after they themselves have been infected.

That’s why it’s so important to test regularly and get onto treatment early. If you know your HIV status, you can make informed choices about your health, including HIV treatment and sexual health, and decisions about the sort of sex you’ll have.

Find Out More

For more information about HIV treatment, please visit our Ending HIV website

Stay Safe

Staying safe is cruical to ending HIV transmission, and these days it means more than using condoms.

I’m On

Condoms provide the most effective barrier to HIV transmission and are also the best way of reducing the chances of picking up or passing on other sexually transmissible infections. NSW has always had a strong safe sex culture and we need to maintain it if we’re to end HIV transmission by 2020. Advances in treatment and testing will help us reach this goal, they won’t be sufficient if gay men don’t continue to stay safe.

Risk Reduction

While condoms remain the most effective barrier against transmission of HIV, there are also other options to practice safe sex. Additional biomedical technologies provide new tools to reduce the risk of HIV transmission. As a result, ‘safe sex’ for gay men is no longer restricted to condoms only, but now refers to sex with a very low risk of HIV transmission.

Find Out More

For more information about staying safe with condoms and other risk reduction strategies, please visit ourEnding HIV website

EPIC-NSW PrEP Trial

Capture

EPIC-NSW (‘Expanded PrEP Implementation in Communities in NSW’) is a study run by the Kirby Instituteand funded by the NSW Government, in collaboration with a number of partners such as sexual health services and clinics. EPIC – NSW aims to assess the impact of the rapid expansion in access to PrEP amongst those at highest risk of acquiring HIV, in particular, if it will lead to a drop in new HIV infections.

The study will see 3,700 people at high risk of acquiring HIV enrolled in the study as efficiently as possible. EPIC-NSW is a criteria-based access program – which means eligibility for the study will be determined on the basis of HIV risk criteria. The aim is to rapidly enrol eligible people and follow them for up to two years while they take PrEP.

Partners involved in the study include the Kirby Institute, UNSW (leading the study), NSW Health and Local Health Districts, ACON, Positive Life NSW, the Australasian Society for HIV Medicine(Australia’s HIV professional organisation for clinicians) General Practitioners who specialise in HIV, NSW publicly funded sexual health clinics and private practices.

Find out more or get involved in EPIC-NSW.

HIV Self Testing

Ending HIV is in our hands.

Ending HIV transmission by 2020 is possible, but only if gay men test more, treat early and stay safe. To help increase testing rates, the Australian Government amended regulation to allow HIV self-testing (HST) devices to be sold in Australia.

HST devices allow users to perform an initial screening test in the comfort and privacy of their home. It’s a very simple process – involving a mouth swab or finger prick – which produces a result in less than 30 minutes.

However, any such device needs to be approved for use in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and this is yet to occur. This means it’s currently illegal to sell HST devices in Australia.

But it is legal to buy HST devices from overseas for personal use in Australia. If you’re doing this, there are some issues you need to consider:

USING HST DEVICES FROM OVERSEAS

  • As of July 2016, the World Health Organisation reports that 16 countries have HIV self-testing policies. It is important to research a device to ensure that it has been approved by a reputable regulator
  • USAID (the United States Agency for International Development) maintains a list of rapid HIV testing devices approved for use in their programs (usaid.gov).
  • Devices vary in terms of their quality and accuracy. They may also suffer from exposure to heat during international shipping which could affect the performance of the test.
  • It’s unlikely that HST devices purchased from overseas will have Australian-specific information on what to do with your results.
  • As these devices are screening tests, the possible results are ‘reactive’, ‘negative’ (non-reactive), or ‘invalid’. Any reactive result needs to be confirmed by a diagnostic test conducted by a healthcare professional.
  • HST devices work by detecting HIV antibodies, which the immune system produces anywhere between 2 weeks to 3 months after exposure to the virus. Because of this window period, HST devices may not provide a conclusive result until up to 3 months after a risk of exposure.
  • If you are considering self-testing for HIV, it’s important to make sure you know who to contact so you can to be linked into care, support and diagnostic testing services. For this reason, we also suggest that people not test alone and test at times when relevant support services are operating.

NEED TO TALK?
If you want to talk to someone about a positive or reactive result, call:

  • ACON: (02) 9206 2000
    Free Call: 1800 063 060 | TTY: (02) 9283 2088
    We provide an HIV Diagnosis Priority Service between Monday and Friday.
    When you call, tell us that you’re newly diagnosed or testing for HIV and would like to speak with one of our counsellors or health promotion officers.
    You’ll get a call back within one working day of your initial call.
  • NSW Sexual Health Infoline: 1800 451 624 | TTY 02 9221 6515
  • QLife: 1800 184 527
  • If you want to talk to someone outside of business hours (9am – 6pm), then pls call Lifeline’s 24 hour crisis counselling service: 13 11 14
  • If you’ve had a recent risk event, you can take PEP to prevent infection, but only if it’s taken with 72 hours of exposure to HIV. Call the PEP Hotline on: 1800 737 669.

OTHER TESTING OPTIONS
Gay men have several HIV testing options:

  • Free rapid HIV tests are provided at a[TEST] as part of a comprehensive HIV and sexual health testing at sites on Oxford St, Surry Hills, Newtown and Kings Cross. Find out more at: www.atest.org.au
  • Standard laboratory testing is available through most GPs and at all sexual health services. Find out more at: www.endinghiv.org.au/test-more

WHAT IS ACON DOING ON THIS ISSUE?
As well as taking this step to inform our communities, we’re working with our partner organisations to advocate for better and faster approval processes.

To download a PDF (386 kb) of this information, click here.

Dried Blood Spot Testing

dbs

Ending HIV transmission by 2020 is possible, but only if gay men test more, treat early and stay safe. To help increase testing rates, NSW Health has introduced Dried Blood Spot (DBS) testing to provide a greater variety of testing options for HIV.

The DBS HIV test is a new, free, easy, private and accurate way to test for HIV. It involves a few drops of blood that you collect from yourself at home via a small pin prick. You return the DBS HIV test to NSW Health in a reply paid envelope and receive the result by phone, text or email. You don’t need to go to a clinic or a  doctor to do this test.

DBS HIV testing is for people living in NSW who are over 16 years old. The test is for gay and other men who have sex with men, people from Africa or Asia and people who have current or previous sexual partners from Africa or Asia.

You will be asked some questions and if DBS HIV testing is suitable for you, you can register for a DBS HIV test here.

Gay Friendly GPs

Friendly GP

When it comes to sexual health, lots of gay men like to speak with a supportive doctor who understands the ins and outs of gay sex.

Download a full list of Gay Friendly GPs here

 

Services

HIV Testing

Knowing your HIV status is now easy as, and it’s vital to efforts to end HIV transmission in NSW by 2020.

Benefits of Testing

Many new HIV transmissions in NSW occur because some gay men think they’re negative when they’re actually positive. That’s because it can take years before HIV symptoms are noticeable. Testing regularly so you know your HIV status allows you to protect your health and the health of your sexual partners.

If you find out you have HIV, you can then take steps to benefit your health, including talking to your doctor about treatment. There are plenty of services available to assist you with a new HIV diagnosis, including many provided by ACON.

Getting gay men to test more is vital to our goal of ending HIV transmission in NSW by 2020. You can help out by getting tested at least twice a year, or up to four times a year if you have more than 10 different partners in 6 months or have sex without condoms.

Getting Tested

Now that rapid HIV testing is available in NSW, testing for HIV is easier than ever, with results available in under 30 minutes.

You can get tested for HIV at any of ACON’s a[TEST] facilities (see below) or any medical or sexual health clinic in NSW.

There are other testing technologies that are being assessed for use in Australia, such as home-based testing kits. More information will be provided on these as they become available.

a[TEST]

ACON provides a range of FREE community-based rapid HIV and STI screening services for gay men in Sydney and in selected regional locations in NSW. To find out more or to make an appointment to get tested in Sydney, please visit www.atest.org.au.

  • Oxford St: 167 Oxford St. Darlinghurst Mon – Fri, 11am – 7pm + Sat 11:30am – 2:30pm
  • Newtown: 222 King St. Mon & Tue 4:20pm – 7:20pm
  • Surry Hills: 414 Elizabeth St. Wed & Thu 3pm – 6:30pm
  • Kings Cross: 180 Victoria St. Sat, 3:30pm – 6:30pm

Workshops For Gay Men

We offer a range of FREE workshops for same sex attracted men (gay, bisexual, or curious).

Participating in a workshop is a great way to make new friends in a safe social environment and to learn more about identity, coming out, sex and sexual health, HIV, relationships, the LGBTI community and other relevant topics. There are usually between 10-14 guys in each group.

Our workshops are facilitated by trained professional volunteers and run over 2 – 6 sessions, depending on the workshop. Workshops happen at the ACON offices in central Sydney and selected regional offices.

The below workshops are for all gay men. We also run other workshops for young gay men aged 18-26.

 

Upcoming Workshops

We are currently seeking participants for the below workshops. Once enough participants have enrolled, dates for the workshop will be confirmed.

 

Better-Sex

Better Sex

Better Sex is a six week workshop designed for all gay men. We will talk about how we feel about sex, how we can negotiate and access better sexual encounters and relationships. You will learn how to have more pleasurable sex in a way that enhances your overall health and wellbeing. The workshop will cover from oral and anal pleasure to other more adventurous activities. You will also hear from a well experienced panel in the final week.

Duration: 6 sessions
Where: ACON Sydney
When: Dates TBA
Time:  6 30pm to 9 30pm.
Sign up here

 

Looking-For-Mr-Right

Looking for Mr Right

Looking for Mr Right is a six week workshop designed for single gay men. You will learn about enhancing your communication skills, the dating do’s and don’ts, HIV, sexual health and intimacy. You’ll also hear from a panel of men who have different experiences of being in a variety of relationship types.

Duration: 6 sessions
Where: ACON Sydney
When: Dates TBA
Time:  6 30pm to 9 30pm.
Sign up here

 

Getting-Together

Getting Together

Getting Together provides an opportunity to discuss our identities and values with a group of like-minded same sex attracted men. This will explore all the different types of relationships we have in life such as friendships, partners and casual encounters. As a group we learn how best to communicate within social networks, both online and offline. We also look at sexual health, substance usage and HIV within our community.

Duration: 6 sessions
Where: ACON Sydney
When: Dates TBA
Time:  6 30pm to 9 30pm.
Sign up here

 

YGM-workshop-headers-SMS-Arabic

Start Making Sense – Arabic & Middle Eastern speaking background
The Young Gay Men’s Project is offering a FREE WORKSHOP for same-sex attracted guys from an Arabic or Middle Eastern background. The workshop is run by peer volunteers and explores identity, coming out, cultural expectations, relationships, friendships and community.

Duration: 6 sessions
Where: ACON Sydney
When: Dates TBA
Time:  6 30pm to 9 30pm.
Sign up here

Find Out More

For more information about any of our gay health workshops or express interest in attending, please contact us: 1800 063 060 | (02) 9206 2075 | groups@acon.org.au

Workshops for Young Gay Men

We offer a range of FREE workshops for young same sex attracted men (gay, bisexual, curious) aged 18 – 26.

Participating in a workshop is a great way to make new friends in a safe social environment and to learn more about identity, coming out, sex and sexual health, HIV, relationships, the LGBTI community and other relevant topics. There are usually between 10-14 guys in each group.

Our workshops are facilitated by trained professional volunteers and run over 2 – 6 sessions, depending on the workshop. Workshops happen at the ACON offices in central Sydney and selected regional offices.

Sign up for a workshop here

 

Upcoming Workshops

We’re currently seeking participants for the below workshop/s. Once enough participants have enrolled, dates for the workshop will be confirmed.

SMS-westernsydney

Start Making Sense – Western Sydney

This a free workshop for young gay men aged 18 to 26.

We are teaming up with Headspace Parramatta to deliver a Start Making Sense workshop about the gay community, coming out, sexual health, friends and relationships.

The workshop will help you understand:

  • Identity – what it means to be gay and young
  • Explore the process of coming out with a group of peers
  • Learn about the gay community, the scene and how to develop social networks
  • Explore friendships, relationships and communication skills with a group a peer
  • Learn about HIV and sexual health

Date: TBA
Duration: 6 sessions over 6 weeks
Time: 6 30pm to 9 30pm
Where: 2 Wentworth St, Parramatta (Headspace)
Sign up here

 

YGM-workshop-headers-SMS-Arabic

Start Making Sense – Arabic & Middle Eastern speaking background
The Young Gay Men’s Project is offering a FREE WORKSHOP, specifically for young (18 – 30) same-sex attracted guys from an Arabic or Middle Eastern background. The workshop is run by peer volunteers and explores identity, coming out, cultural expectations, relationships, friendships and community. If you are interested contact youth@acon.org.au

Date: Returning in April
Duration: 6 sessisons over 6 weeks
Time: 630pm to 9 30pm
Where: ACON 414 Elizabeth Street Surry Hills, Sydney
Sign up here

 

adultthemes2

Adult Themes

Explore attraction. Deepen your understanding of issues around sex, sexuality and dating. Get tips and techniques about how to have better sex, and how to safely explore the more adventurous side of sexuality. This workshop covers anal pleasure and health, sex toys and adventurous play. It explores how and where to get the kind of sex you want, sexual attitudes, values, intimacy, relationships, communication. You’ll even get to hear from a panel of guys in the know.

Date: Beginning May 17
Duration: 6 sessions over 6 weeks
Time: 6 30pm to 9 30pm
Where: ACON 414 Elizabeth Street Surry Hills, Sydney
Sign up: youth@acon.org.au

 

GettingItOnline

Getting It Online

Learn tips and techniques for setting up an effective gay networking profile. Make new friends while exploring popular mobile apps/websites to gain the kind of experiences you want! Discuss the advantages and challenges of using the internet for finding mates, dates and sex, and investigate our social values relating to online etiquette and sexual discrimination. We’ll also talk about how to stay safe when hooking up!

Date: TBA
Duration: 3 sessions over 3 weeks
Time: 6 30pm to 9 30pm
Where: ACON 414 Elizabeth Street Surry Hills, Sydney
Sign up: youth@acon.org.au

 

StartMakingSense

Start Making Sense

This a free workshop for young gay men aged 18 to 26.

The workshop will help you understand:

  • Identity – what it means to be gay and young
  • Explore the process of coming out with a group of peers
  • Learn about the gay community, the scene and how to develop social networks
  • Explore friendships, relationships and communication skills with a group a peer
  • Learn about HIV and sexual health

Date: March 30
Duration: 6 sessions over 6 weeks
Time: 6 30pm to 9 30pm
Where: ACON 414 Elizabeth Street Surry Hills, Sydney
Sign up: youth@acon.org.au

 

SMS-online

Start Making Sense – Regional & Rural Online

We’re here for young gay men. Join our online Start Making Sense workshop.

This workshop is for young gay and same-sex attracted men aged 18-26 who live in rural and regional areas.

It is an opportunity to meet other young guys around NSW, learn more about identity, coming out, HIV and sexual health.

You will need a computer or smartphone to access the content of the workshop each week and participate in the group discussion.

Date: Beginning May 16
Duration:
6 sessions over 6 weeks
Time:
630pm to 830pm
Where: 
Online
Sign up: youth@acon.org.au

 

Find Out More
For more info, please contact us: 1800 063 060 | (02) 9206 2076 | youth@acon.org.au

Free Condoms

Get It On!

Condoms prevent or reduce the exchange of semen, vaginal fluid or blood between partners during sex. When used with lube, condoms are a highly effective way to ‘stay safe’ and prevent HIV transmission.

Condoms also offer protection against a range of other sexually transmissible infections (STIs). They do this by preventing the transfer of bodily fluids or by covering affected genital areas.

To help prevent the transmission of HIV and other STIs, we distribute over 230,000 condoms and safe sex packs every year to a range of community venues, clinics and events, and we supply venues with ACON Toolboxes which we regularly stock with safe sex packs.

To find out where you can get our free condoms and safe sex packs, please visit our Ending HIV website.

To get free condoms at your community venue, event or clinic, please contact your nearest ACON office.

 

ACON Sexperts

sexperts

Our Sexperts are peer education volunteers who visit sex on premises venues and have discussions with the customers about sexual health, HIV and STI testing, and other relevant topics.

We already have a really committed and fun group of volunteers which we are looking to add to as we expand the project to new premises.

To express interest in becoming a Sexpert contact us on: 1800 063 060 | (02) 9206 2075  | groups@acon.org.au