As Sydney prepares to celebrate the 2022 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras festival, LGBTQ health advocates are reminding revellers to look after their health, safety and wellbeing during the party season, especially in relation to HIV, sexual health, the use of alcohol and other drugs, consent and COVID-19.
NSW’s leading LGBTQ health organisation, ACON, says an important part of Mardi Gras season is about ensuring health and safety of our communities is front of mind, whilst enjoying everything the festival has to offer.
“The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is all about celebrating our communities and having a great time doing it,” said ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill.
“Looking after your sexual health and the health of your partners, as well as playing safe and doing what we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19, will help everyone in our communities have a much more enjoyable Mardi Gras experience.”
Test Now – It’s Your Ticket to Ride is the latest campaign from ACON’s Ending HIV initiative. Rolling out on outdoor, digital, cinema, radio and LGBTQ media, its message is to encourage our communities to continue with regular HIV and STI screening routines in light of eased COVID-19 restrictions.
“Over the time of the pandemic, we have seen testing rates drop due to restrictions placed on all of our movements. Now that we can move around much more freely and socialise, we’re encouraging our communities to get tested for HIV and STIs again,” said Mr Parkhill.
“For years our communities have heeded the call to get tested for their sexual health to protect themselves and their partners, and it’s important that we get back into a routine. So, if you haven’t tested for a while, or if you haven’t tested before, we encourage everyone to screen for HIV and STIs.
Additionally, in the lead up to the Mardi Gras season, ACON will release a harm reduction campaign on social media by highlighting the effects of alcohol and the other drugs such as GHB and MDMA, and offering strategies to prevent overdoses and other related harms.
The campaign will also provide information and support in relation to preventing the spread of COVID-19, as well as the important issue of consent.
“While we know that most LGBTQ people who use alcohol and other drugs do so in a non-problematic way, some experience significant harms related to their use,” said Mr Parkhill.
“With Mardi Gras upon us, it’s important our communities are aware of the risks relating to their consumption of drugs, and the strategies to prevent GHB and MDMA-related overdoses.”
“We know that COVID-19 is still a very real risk facing our communities, as well as society in general, so it’s important that we remain aware of how we can do our bit to prevent its spread and look after vulnerable members of our communities.”
“It’s also vital to the health and wellbeing of our communities that everyone is aware of the importance of consent, and why establishing consent is fundamental to how we care and show respect for others,” said Mr Parkhill.
For more information on sexual health testing and HIV, visit: www.endinghiv.org.au. For more information and support on alcohol and other drugs use are available on ACON’s online substance support resource Pivot Point: www.pivotpoint.org.au.
Image: Test Now – courtesy of ACON