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Read the top tips to keep safe at Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

Read the top tips to keep safe at Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras was attended by over 400,000 people

Sydney is filling up with hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world for the 39th Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Australian laws and culture might be very different to what international visitors are used to in their home countries, so it’s important to know how to party safely and legally.

Leading LGBTI health advocates have released their top tips on how revellers can look after themselves during this year’s party season.

“Playing safe will help partygoers have a much more enjoyable Mardi Gras experience,” said ACON CEO – the state’s leading LGBTI health organisation – Nicolas Parkhill.

Practice Safe Sex – Now There Are 3 Ways To Do It

Condoms play a vital role in preventing the transmission of HIV and other STIs and 60,000 free ACON condom packs will be available at LGBTI venues and events during the Mardi Gras season. This is one cheap and easy way to play safe.

‘However, If a person is HIV negative, they can now take PrEP, an antiretroviral drug that prevents HIV negative people from becoming infected,’ Parkhill said.

‘And if a person is HIV positive, it’s now proven beyond doubt that HIV treatments can help reduce that person’s viral load to an undetectable level, making it almost impossible to transmit the virus.

‘There’s no longer a one size fits all approach to safe sex. We can now choose from a range of strategies – condoms, PrEP or UVL.’

PEP – Act Quickly

If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV, PEP may prevent you becoming infected – if you act quickly.

PEP (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. PEP is not a substitute for safe sex – using condoms is always the best prevention.

In Australia the 24-hour PEP Hotline is: 1800 737 669.

LGV – Be Aware

LGV stands for ’lymphogranuloma venereum’. It’s a sexually transmitted infection caused by a certain type of Chlamydia bacteria.

LGV bacteria gets into the body through tiny abrasions of the skin and the warm moist mucus lining of the mouth, penis or inside of the rectum.

During sex, friction can cause minute abrasions in mucosal surfaces that allow the bacteria to enter the body. Anal sex without condoms is the easiest way this happens.

Alcohol and Drugs – Reduce Harm

Parkhill said reducing the harms associated with alcohol and other drugs is also important.

‘There are often new drugs emerging or drugs that have different strengths,’ he said.

‘It’s important to know as much as you can about what you are taking. Mixing G and alcohol continues to be a key cause of overdose.

‘It’s important to tell someone you trust what you’ve taken, and to get help immediately if it’s needed.

‘Also, the ACON Rovers will be at all the major parties to help people experiencing any difficulties.’

Fair Play – Know Your Rights

‘There will be significant police operations at selected Mardi Gras events, which will involve sniffer dogs and, in some cases, personal searches for drugs,’ Parkhill said.

‘If police want to search you, it’s best to cooperate and not show aggression as this behaviour has sometimes resulted in charges against people.’

To help partygoers understand their legal rights during the Mardi Gras season, 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.

Information about rights and safety is available on the Fair Play website: www.fair-play.org.au.

Street Safety – Report Violence

‘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,’ Parkhill said.

‘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 online.