As Sydney prepares to celebrate the 42nd Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras this weekend, ACON – NSW’s leading HIV and sexuality and gender diverse health organisation – is encouraging revellers to look after themselves and their friends during the party season, especially in relation to HIV, sexual health, alcohol and other drugs, and street safety.
ACON Deputy CEO Karen Price says that it is important that while people are enjoying everything Mardi Gras has to offer, we also keep health and safety front of mind.
“The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is absolutely about having a great time celebrating the vibrancy and diversity of our communities. ACON hopes that everyone has the time of their lives, while also playing safe this Mardi Gras,” Ms Price said.
Ms Price said ACON recommends a range of measures for a healthy, fun and safe festival.
Practice Safe Sex – PrEP, UVL, Condoms
There are now a range of effective HIV prevention strategies available including taking PrEP, using condoms and maintaining an undetectable viral load. “Talk about the HIV prevention option that you are using so you and your sexual partners stay safe,” Ms Price said. To find out more, visit www.endinghiv.org.au.
PEP – Act Quickly!
If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV, PEP may prevent you becoming infected – but you act quickly. “PEP, or 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,” Ms Price said. “PEP is not a substitute for safe sex – but it is there if you need it.” More information is available via the 24-hour PEP Hotline: 1800 737 669.
Alcohol and Drugs – Reduce Harm
Ms Price said reducing the harms associated with alcohol and other drugs is also important. ““Over the past few weeks, ACON has been highlighting drug safety messages, especially for MDMA and GHB, as well as drug alerts from NSW Health on acetyl-fentanyl and fentanyl. Members of our communities may have seen those messages and we hope everyone understands the risks and what they need to do to stay safe. It is important to tell someone you trust what you’ve taken, and to get help immediately if it’s needed. The ACON Rovers will be at all the major parties this weekend to help people experiencing any difficulties.” You can find more safety tips regarding alcohol and other drug use and advice about partying safely via ACON’s Pivot Point website: www.pivotpoint.org.au.
Fair Play – Know Your Rights
“As usual, we are expecting significant police operations at selected Mardi Gras events over the weekend,” Ms Price said. “If police want to search you, it’s best to not show aggression as this behaviour has sometimes resulted in charges against people.” To help partygoers understand their legal rights, ACON, Mardi Gras and the Inner City Legal Centre 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. Visit the Fair Play website: www.fair-play.org.au.
Street Safety – Report Violence
Ms Price said 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 ACON is available on the ACON website: www.acon.org.au/what-we-are-here-for/safety-inclusion/
Get Tested – Know For Sure
“It’s important to know your HIV status,” Ms Price said. “Knowing your HIV status means you can take action to look after your health and the health of your partners. So if you can fit it in before the weekend, get a rapid HIV test, which can deliver results within 30 minutes. Of course, once the glitter settles, we encourage everyone in our communities to get tested for HIV and STIs. Visit your GP, local sexual health clinic or ACON’s various community testing services like a[TEST].”
Ms Price added: “We also want people to know that in Sydney, there have been recent cases of Shigella – a bacterial bowel infection. If you are showing symptoms, which include diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach cramps and fever, see you doctor immediately and get tested, treat it immediately and prevent the spread of Shigella.”
ACON operates the HIV/STI testing facility, a[TEST], in Darlinghurst, Surry Hills, Kings Cross and Newtown. ACON also operates a[TEST] Chinese Clinic and Check OUT: LGBTIQ+ Sexual Health Clinic in Surry Hills, and trans[TEST] in Kings Cross.
“There’s a range of HIV and STI testing services available, so we urge everyone in our communities to continue looking after their health and the health of their partners, and get tested after the party season,” Price said.
David Alexander, ACON Media and Communications
E: [email protected] T: (02) 9206 2044 M: 0428 477 042