Is clean the community’s dirty little secret?

Yes, according to a new email campaign that seeks to expose the damaging effect of three small words, used to determine HIV status when negotiating safe sex: Are you clean?

Words do matter, the email flyers read. It’s not OK to use -˜Are you clean?’

The campaign is the brainchild of Perth-based photographer James Rendell, who is circulating seven online flyers to shed light on what he calls a really concerning trend.

What I am trying to do is get some dialogue going about the issue, because it’s just cropping up more and more, Rendell told Sydney Star Observer.

Rendell launched the initiative independently last month after observing a growth in the use of the term clean to connote people who are HIV-negative.

I have spoken to so many people who are HIV positive or negative and they’ve all come across it. It’s something that’s maybe come from drug use references, but seems to have migrated from that, Rendell said.

The flyers, which include photographs taken by Rendell, also contain a safe-sex message.

Safe sex is everyone’s responsibility, poz or neg, and it is not appropriate for anyone to use language that is likely to cause offence, the flyers read.

The first flyer targeted language used on online dating services, while subsequent versions have taken the safe-sex message to lesbians as well.

Rendell’s efforts follow a Sexual Racism Sux campaign launched by a group of Sydney gay men three years ago to tackle racist language on online dating services.

The campaign sought to draw attention to the use of prejudicial language in online dating, like men posting No GAMS [Gay Asian Men] on their profiles.

Geoff Honnor, executive officer of People Living With HIV/ AIDS NSW, said Rendell’s initiative highlighted a problem that had persisted for a long, long time.

In terms of HIV, -˜clean’ can be used as a kind of stigmatising and discriminatory word, Honnor told the Star.

It’s the judgements people who are non-HIV-positive put on sero status and its meaning that can actually have really kind of negative impacts. As an organisation we have a very strong distaste for the use of the word -˜clean’ in that sort of context.

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