What does the gay scene mean to you and your mates? What comes into your head when you picture Soho, Canal Street or your own local gay scene? Well, however you answered the question there’s a good chance that you were thinking about your favourite bars and clubs. Drinking is a big part of gay culture and even in the age of apps and hook-up sites many gay and bisexual men meet up on the gay scene. Alcohol is such an endemic part of the gay scene that it sometimes appears harmless and unremarkable (I mean almost everyone has one in their hand, after all), but going out and having a few too many drinks on a Friday or Saturday night can leave you with more than just a nasty hangover the next morning. Thousands of gay and bisexual men are also waking up the morning after the night before with the realisation that they have put themselves at risk of picking up HIV or other STIs (Just pop along to your local GU clinic on a Saturday lunchtime and you’ll see how busy it is!). Alcohol and sex go hand in hand. Drinking alcohol can increase the risk of having unprotected sex because it can lower your inhibitions, make you forget to use protection and can increase the chance of having riskier risk sex, partly due to the fact that it can affect your ability to make reasoned judgements.
For this reason alcohol use is an important element of HIV prevention approaches in the UK and elsewhere, such as on our mentoring, counselling and health trainer programmes (see here for more info) which consider alcohol use as one of a wider group of factors that can result in unprotected sex and risky sexual practices. Alcohol use is also a prevention issue beacause it is higher amongst gay/bisexual men than the general population and higher among HIV positive men than HIV negative men (stigmatisation is a big factor for this), and can also have an impact on treatment adherence for those taking anti-retrovirals (see research here), which means that it is also closely linked to HIV treatment and care. Luckily there is free support for gay and bisexual men in London who are worried about the risks they are taking (sexually and otherwise) while on alcohol. In addition to our own services, Antidote is the only LGBT specific drug and alcohol charity in London and they provide counselling, drops-ins and referrals to detox and prescribing clinics, amongst other services
What do you think drinking on the gay scene? Do you think something needs to be done to reduce the amount gay/bi men are drinking or do you think gay/bi men are aware of the risks and drink sensibly already? Do you think the message is getting through already and we are drinking less than we were, or maybe even that drugs are replacing alcohol on London’s gay scene and that we need to switch our focus to that instead? Whatever you think we’d like to hear from you so leave your comments below.
A controversial alcohol and safe sex campaign by CORD, Namibia
Why should we bring up the subject of alcohol and unprotected sex today on Halloween? Well it is because sexual activity varies by season. Increased sexual activity and unprotected sex occurs around holidays such as Christmas and summer breaks (and presumably even Halloween too) (see here) , and one of the reasons for this is because we are more likely to drink to excess at these times. So, if you’re heading to the gay scene (or anywhere else) this Halloween no matter what you’ve had to drink and how you’re dressing up make sure you wear a condom!
The views above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the GMI Partnership. If you are gay, bisexual or trans and living, working or socialising in London and looking for support to have safer sex please contact us on 02071600941 or email email@example.com
Pop-up seems to be the word of the moment. There are pop-up shops, pop-up cafes and even pop-up malls. So, why not pop-up HIV testing? Well, that’s exactly what we thought and that’s one of the reasons why we have a series of pop-up HIV clinics across London on different days of the week. As well as testing at one-off events such as pride and music festivals, we have set venues where we can do fee, rapid, HIV tests. The main fixed pop-up clinics are:
Ku Bar Frith St – every Saturday 2-6pm .
Expectations shop, Shoreditch – every Thursday 5-7pm (with Positive East).
Chariots Sauna Shoreditch – every Wednesday and Thursday 5-7.30pm (with St Bart’s clinic and THT).
GAY – every Wednesday 3.30-6.30pm, (with 56 Dean Street).
Other Chariots Saunas – every Friday rotating amongst: Vauxhall, Limehouse, Waterloo and Stretham.
In all venues we have a private confidential space where you can test with a healthrainer, who you can also ask any questions about HIV and STI transmission and risk. The test just involves a finger prick, so there are no big needles, like the ones involved in a full blood test, and you get the result within a couple of minutes, so what’s stopping you? We can meet you at the pop-up testing venues, or we can even take you there if you’d feel more comfortable.
Some of the other advantages of pop-up testing are:
- It’s convenient, you don’t even need to go to a clinic.
- It’s friendly and does not involve speaking to a doctor or nurse.
- It is non-judgemental, free and only takes a couple of minutes.
Our pop-up testing has been a huge success and in the last 6 months we have tested almost 500 gay and bisexual men across London. One of the big advantages of pop-up testing is that we are more likely to test men who are having riskier sex and men who are less likely to test than those that would come along to a sexual health clinic.
For World Aids Day we are going to run a testing afternoon on Saturday 23rd November, 1-6pm, at both of the Ku Bars (Soho and China town). The aim is going to be to get as many men as possible to test and our staff and volunteers will be out in the street around Soho/China town promoting the day, so say hi if you see us and come along if you can make it! There will be more information on the testing day nearer the time so keep your eyes peeled!
Wear a condom, get tested and make sure you’re up to date with STIs. That was the message given by one of America’s most well known porn actors, Rod Daily, in 2012. Little did he know that less than a year later he would be diagnosed as HIV positive after seemingly contracting the virus working making adult films.
Now it’s September 2013 and he is looking much less upbeat at a press conference organised by the AIDS Health Foundation in Hollywood. He is fighting back the tears as he holds the hand of his girlfriend, who was also recently diagnosed as HIV positive. He is critical of the approach of porn film studios whose policy of testing every 2 weeks, he says, in insufficient and risks transmission of the virus between those working on adult films. He had been working on gay and straight films for approximately 2 years at an unnamed company before seroconverting. His girlfriend talks of the pressure to do things you might not want to, such as having unprotected sex, as ‘there is always someone younger and prettier’ that will come along and take the risk if you wont. Condoms should not be a choice, she states resolutely to TV cameras and journalists.
The press conference was organised partly to support the introduction of the California law – AB640 – which would have introduced a series of mandatory health and safety measures to porn sets and prohibit unprotected sex amongst porn actors. However, the law was rejected, possibly because of the fear that multi-million dollar porn companies would relocate as happened following the largely ineffectual legislation outlawing unprotected sex on porn sets in Los Angeles recently. Some porn actors have also complained that such legislation takes away freedom of choice and that they should be able to decide what they do with their bodies, not state legislators.
Clearly, it’s a divisive issue. The porn issue is a chicken and egg one in many ways – it is impossible to say whether changes in porn have resulted in changing sexual behaviour or whether sexual behaviour changes have influenced shifts in the nature of porn. But, what seems to be more likely is that porn can demonstrate options that we have sexually and these can impact whether we try certain types of sex, e.g. anal, protected/unprotected etc. One interesting conclusion from recent Norwegian research is that we should use porn as a way to promote safer sex, something that is rarely considered at the moment. One of the most obvious ways would be to use condoms in adult films to normalise their use and, hopefully, increase the likelihood that those consuming porn will have protected sex too.
What do you think on this controversial approach? Should unprotected sex be outlawed in the porn industry? Is prevention of HIV and STIs through the porn industry viable?