Sex-on-premises venues were offered a new advisory code of practice from the AIDS Council of NSW (ACON) last week aimed at setting standards for the health and well-being of venue patrons and staff.

An additional information booklet on how patrons can best make use of sex venues titled When You’re Hot, You’re Hot was launched in conjunction with the new code at Ginger’s Bar last Thursday.

The new code of practice, which updates and sharpens aspects of a previous code released in 1996, was developed after a four-month consultation process between ACON and venue operators.

There was a need for the code to re-emphasise existing key areas such as the adequate training of sex venue staff on issues of health and drug use as well as consulting the public on venue practices, Lovney told Sydney Star Observer.

There have also been relatively recent examples of places where we have had to make interventions to ensure diseases like shigella do not spread unchecked through sex venues.

Under the code, sex venue operators agree to offer a range of basic services including free information on safe sex and drugs, adequate lighting around safe sex information, infection control standards in areas such as cleaning and food handling and the provision of safe disposal equipment.

This is not about ACON playing policeman, it’s about ensuring that people can feel comfortable using venues because those venues meet certain standards. Venues will make their own decisions on whether or not they want to join up, Lovney said.

The information booklet When You’re Hot, You’re Hot grew out of an action research project funded by NSW Health in 2000 that examined the experiences of people who use sex-on-premises venues.

The research project identified two groups of users. One group consisted of experienced users who already had acquired sophisticated sets of strategies for negotiating sex at venues including condom use and recognising non- verbal cues for sex.

However, according to Lovney, there was another group that had negative experiences with sex venues after finding themselves in uncomfortable situations or having unrealistic expectations about what they were going to get out of the venues.

I guess part of this resource is to help enable that second group of people to feel confident and make informed and healthy decisions when using sex venues, Lovney said.

If people are feeling that they are on a back foot in those situations then they are less likely to make healthy decisions -“ so this project works on the notion that knowledge equals power.

The booklet is believed to have cost $25,000 in production and distribution costs and will have a print run of approximately 18,000 in NSW and at selected venues interstate.

Lovney rejected criticism that the booklet would have a limited impact due to specifications from NSW Health that it only be distributed at either the compliant sex venues themselves or directly from ACON.

This is not a recruitment drive for the venues. It’s about making sure that people who are using venues, or who want to use venues, do so in a safe and appropriate way, asserted Lovney.

The distribution we have is exactly what we wanted -“ it’s a highly explicit publication and I guess we’ve known for a long time that resources have to be appropriately targeted to the right people. One risk is that if [the booklet] gets distributed too widely, then it will be either ineffective or it will become a political risk.

ACON have confirmed that they will also hold free evening workshops for men on how to use sex-on-premises venues.

Information on the workshops can be obtained by calling ACON on 9206 2050.

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