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.

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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

There are a range of ways to prevent acquiring HIV, referred to as combination prevention. This includes the use of condoms, PrEP and/or choosing partners with an undetectable viral load (UVL).

 

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is the use of HIV medication to keep HIV negative people from contracting HIV. In Australia it is recommended that PrEP is taking as one pill, once a day.

PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV when taken as prescribed. Although PrEP does not prevent the transmission of other STIs, which can, in turn, increase the possibility of HIV infection. This is why we encourage people who are taking PrEP to regularly check in with their sexual health provider.  If any STIs do occur, get them treated and follow the advice of your sexual health provider.

People who are using PrEP should consider maintaining their condom use, particularly for casual partners, until you are aware of their testing regimen.

PrEP is now available on the PBS, making it affordable and accessible across Australia. Find out more information on how you can access PrEP now here.

Find out more about PrEP

 

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

 

Undetectable Viral Load (UVL) & Treatment as Prevention (TasP)

When a person living with HIV is on effective treatment, they often achieve what is called an “undetectable viral load”. This means that HIV is no longer able to be detected in their bodies by viral load tests, meaning the amount of virus is their bodies is extremely low. Many people refer to this as being “undetectable”.

In term of HIV prevention, there has never been a case of a person with an undetectable viral load passing on HIV to a sexual partner, a fact backed up by major international studies.

“Treatment as Prevention” (TasP) is when you choose sexual partners who are undetectable as there is not considered to be a risk of acquiring HIV from someone who has been had an UVL for more than six months.

Find out more about UVL

 

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

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 StDarlinghurstMon – Fri, 11am – 7pm + Sat 11:30am – 2:30pm
  • Newtown:222 King St. Mon & Tue 4:15 – 7:00pm
  • Surry Hills:414 Elizabeth St. Wed & Thu 3pm – 6:30pm
  • Kings Cross:180 Victoria St. Friday, 2:30pm to 4:15pm + 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. Further, research shows that when a person living with HIV is on effective treatment and has had a sustained undetectable viral load (UVL) for six months, it is not possible for them to transmit the virus to a sexual partner. Choosing sexual partners who are HIV positive and have an UVL is called ‘treatment as prevention”.

Who’s On Treatment?

So far, we’ve got a majority of gay men with HIV on treatment in NSW. We need to maintain this number 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 crucial to ending HIV transmission, and these days it means more than using condoms.

I’m On

Condoms provide an 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.

Risk Reduction

While condoms remain the a highly effective barrier against transmission of HIV, there are also other options to practice safe sex. Additional biomedical technologies (like PrEP and UVL) 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

HIV Self Testing

Ending HIV is in our hands.

Ending HIV transmission by 2020 is possible, but only if gay men test often, treat early and stay safe.  HIV self-testing (HST) devices are a way to improve testing accessibility in NSW.  The HST allows for discretion in the HIV testing process for those who may feel more comfortable testing in this way.

While there is an option to buy HST devices from overseas, we encourage people to purchase TGA approved HST devices, as quality assurance is provided as well as local contact information for support and follow up.

We also encourage gay and bisexual men to continue to engage comprehensive HIV and STI testing with a sexual health provider at least twice a year.

HIV self-testing in Australia

The first HIV self-test is now approved for sale in Australia. An HIV self-test is a finger-prick blood test that you can perform on yourself, at home or elsewhere, and receive results in 15 minutes. The testing kit comes as an easy to use device with directions. Australia only has one test approved for sale. It is recommended to only purchase tests approved for sale as you can be comfortable the test is reliable and safe.

You can connect direct to the website selling the approved HIV self-test in Australia here.

For more detailed information on approved HIV self-testing in Australia, visit the AFAO website.

 

USING HST DEVICES FROM OVERSEAS

  • Some people choose to import other HIV self-tests from overseas. It is important to understand that these tests present more of risk in terms of safety and accuracy than HIV self-tests approved for sale in Australia
  • 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: 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

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, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and injection drug users.

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 (Updated: May 2018)

 

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

ACON offers a range of FREE workshops for same-sex attracted guys (gay, bisexual, queer or curious) ages 18+.

Our workshops are a great way to make new friends, improve your networking/relationship building skills and are designed to bring together guys from every part of our community. Our workshops cover, sex, HIV and sexual health, identity, relationships and issues facing the LGBTQ community at large. Our workshops are designed with community to ensure that they cover the topics that are important to you. Each group is roughly 10-16 guys and run over four weeks.

Our workshops are facilitated by trained professional volunteers and run out of ACON offices in central Sydney and selected regional offices.

We also run other workshops for young same-sex attracted guys aged 18-26 (trans guys included!) through our SPARK program here.

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

Looking For Mr. Right

Looking For Mr Right focuses on empowering participants to improve their skills and confidence when it comes to finding, starting and maintaining relationships. Participants will learn important relationship building skills such as the art small talk, discovering your values, how to navigate safe sex and conflict resolution. The workshop also explores HIV and sexual health as well as sex more broadly in relationships.

A practical and hands-on workshop, Looking For Mr Right is for anyone who wants to better understand and improve their relationship building skills, whilst also making great new friends in the process. Sign up here

Workshop details:

Venue: ACON Sydney 414 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills

Starting Date:

Tuesday – 5/11/2019
Thursday – 28/01/2020

Time: 6:30 – 9:30pm

Duration: 4 sessions (same time each week)

To register, sign up here

Arse Class

Arse Class is ACON’s 4 week workshop that gives participants the latest information to help them take the best care of their booty.

We will cover how to have enjoyable anal sex, kegels, maximising pleasure in the bedroom as well as HIV and sexual health more broadly. This workshop is fun, at times ridicules and a great way to meet like-minded guys.

This workshop is designed for guys who are interested in understanding anal sex and anal health more broadly and is recommended for guys who have gone through our workshops previously. If you are keen on taking part sign up Here

Workshop details:

Venue: ACON Sydney 414 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills

Starting Date:

Tuesday – 5/11/2019

Time: 6:30 – 9:30pm

Duration: 4 sessions (same time each week)

To register, sign up here

Workshops for Young Gay Men

Our Young Gay Men Project, SPARK, offers a range of FREE workshops for young same-sex attracted guys (gay, bisexual, queer, curious), trans inclusive who are aged 18-26 years old.

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 4 sessions. 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 workshops. Once enough participants have enrolled, dates for the workshop will be confirmed.

StartMakingSense

Start Making Sense

This a free workshop for young gay men aged 18 to 26. Meet other young guys and learn about identity, sexuality, coming out, family, friendships, relationships, the gay community and how to build social networks. We’ll also teach you about HIV, sexual health and how to stay safe when hooking up!

Workshop details:

Venue: ACON Sydney 414 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills

Dates:

Wednesday – 21/08/2019
Wednesday – 6/11/2019
Wednesday – 11/3/2020

Time: 6:30 – 9:30pm

To register, sign up here

 

GettingItOnline

Start Making Sense – Mandarin

This workshop of for guys aged 18-30 who speak Mandarin. Explore being same-sex attracted, coming out, cultural identity, friendships, relationships, family, the gay community, building social networks, as well as HIV and sexual health. This workshop is delivered in Mandarin.

To register, sign up here

 

YGM-workshop-headers-SMS-Arabic

Start Making Sense – Arabic & Middle Eastern speaking background

This workshop is for guys aged 18-30 who are from an Arabic and/or Middle Eastern background. Explore being same-sex attracted, coming out, cultural identity, friendships, relationships, family, the gay community, building social networks, as well as HIV and sexual health.

To register, sign up here

 

SMS-online

Start Making Sense – Regional & Rural Online

If you live in a rural or regional area, this workshop is an opportunity to meet other guys around NSW and learn more about identity, coming out, sexuality, friendships, relationships, family, HIV and sexual health. All you need is an internet connection and a webcam enabled laptop or phone!

To register, sign up here

 

adultthemes2

Adult Themes

Meet like minded guys and explore issues around sexuality, intimacy, relationships, sexual attitudes, communication, HIV and sexual health. Get tips and techniques about how to have a better, healthier sex life. You’ll also get to hear from a panel of guys in the know.

Workshop details:

Venue: ACON Sydney 414 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills

Dates:

Tuesday – 8/10/2019
Wednesday – 5/02/2020

Time: 6:30 – 9:30pm

To register, sign up here

 

GettingItOnline

Getting It Online

Learn tips and techniques for setting up a safe and effective gay networking profile. Make new friends while discussing the advantages and disadvantages of using the internet/apps for finding mates, dates and sex. Discuss social values, online etiquette and sexual discrimination.

To register, sign up here

 

Find Out More

For more info, please contact Loc Nguyen on (02) 9206 2077 | 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