Asian Gay Men
As Asian guys, we belong to a diverse community. We may speak a variety of different languages, we might have been born in Australia or overseas, some of us might be recent migrants or multi-generation Aussies, some here just for study, to improve our English or to start a new life. We all have our own stories, each as unique the other.
However, one thing we all share in common with each other and the broader population is that we like sex, and that sometimes comes with additional challenges. Language barriers, understanding what options are available for having sex safely or even knowing where to get tested for HIV and STIs, are just a few.
It can all seem confusing at first, but once we get our head around it, enjoying a healthy and fun sex life is not so complicated and can become second nature – and that’s important.
In the current HIV landscape in NSW, around one in three gay guys who acquire HIV are born in Asia – a figure that has been increasing over time. But by educating ourselves and making informed decisions, we can make a huge impact on reducing HIV infections and help towards ending HIV.
Choose how to stay HIV negative
Stay safe with condoms
You probably know about condoms already. They’re a cheap (even free in some places!) and trusted form of preventing the transmission of HIV and other STIs that have been instrumental in our goal to ending HIV. In addition to condoms, there have been other new biomedical strategies that have been proven to be as effective as condoms and are already being used by a lot of gay guys.
PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis)
For HIV negative men, using PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is another way to ensuring you stay HIV negative. It involves taking HIV medication before sex to protect against HIV, either daily (for all people at risk of HIV including trans men and women) or on-demand (cisgender men only) which requires a specific dosing schedule. The idea of taking medication if you’re not sick might sound odd or discomforting, but PrEP can relieve anxieties you might have around sex, and there are ways of accessing it without any cost. Getting onto PrEP involves a simple screening process and requires commitment. Much like committing to a personal budget plan, you benefit from PrEP by sticking to it.
Undetectable Viral Load (UVL)
The idea of UVL (undetectable viral load) is a strategy that HIV positive guys can use to ensure they won’t transmit the virus. They take treatment which reduces the amount of HIV in their body to low, undetectable levels. It helps improve their health and, as research tells us, has a zero risk of transmission. Incredible!
You can test for HIV and STIs for free
Getting into a regular HIV and STI testing routine is crucial. By getting tested, we take control of our health by knowing our status and that puts us in a position to treat any STIs should they arise.
Testing is available at a range of locations such as your local GP, sexual health clinic or if you’re in Sydney, at a[TEST]. a[TEST] is a fast and confidential rapid HIV testing and STI screening service for all gay men that’s run by other gay guys so you can feel comfortable to bring up any questions or concerns you may have with them. Your entire appointment will take around 30 minutes, including the time it takes to get the result of your rapid HIV test, you don’t need a Medicare card and the best part is it’s 100% free!
HIV Treatment is different now
If you are diagnosed with HIV, the good news is that treatment and care in Australia is of the best in the world. For starters, treatment has changed dramatically in the last ten years – it’s easier to take, less harmful to the body and there are a range of treatment options available.
Early uptake of treatment can ensure you get your immune system back in a fighting form and, as mentioned with UVL, you can be sure you won’t pass on HIV.
There are also ways to accessing treatment without Medicare – get in touch with ACON if you need to discuss further.
For a lot of us, a lesson our parents taught us to succeed in life is by respecting others and respecting ourselves. That respect is also fundamental when it comes to sex. By taking care of ourselves and respecting other’s choices we can experience a fulfilling and safe sex life, while helping to end HIV.
If you are interested to know more or wanting to connect to the community, get in touch with ACON’s Asian gay men’s project. It provides a safe space for you to be who you are and coordinates a range of workshops, social events, forums and other activities giving you the chance to meet new friends and find out what’s going on in the community.