BENJAMIN RILEY

The Victorian AIDS Council and Gay Men’s Health Centre have launched a HTML version of the popular Staying Negative website, home to a campaign to raise gay men’s health awareness.

Staying Negative features stories submitted by men on topics relating to gay men’s health and growing up gay.

Manager of the VAC/GMHC’s health promotion program Colin Batrouney said a need to make Staying Negative as accessible as possible prompted the development of a HTML version of the site, which will run as an alternative to the already existing Flash version.

“We had planned to do it for some time but it was really a matter of getting the funding to do it and we were actually able to do that,” Batrouney said.

“We haven’t replaced the existing Flash site, it’s complementary so everyone can access it.”

The content on both versions of the site is the same, but the HTML site offers simpler navigation and the ability to view stories on the site by topic, with tags such as ‘Coming Out’, ‘Depression’ and ‘Violence’.

Although the campaign is run by VAC/GMHC, Staying Negative is about more than just HIV prevention.
“The site is really centred on people coming forward and being willing to share their stories of not only how they’ve stayed negative over the course of the last 26 years but also how they’ve managed their lives as young gay men, as middle-aged gay men and as older gay men,” Batrouney said.

The campaign relies heavily on the involvement of volunteers for the stories submitted to the site, but Batrouney said this has not been a problem.

“We’ve got more stories than we can actually implement over a year so we’re very pleased with how it’s gone,” he said.

“We don’t censor the stories in any way. What we do is get the volunteers to acontrol their stories and the editing of their stories, and they even approve the ads we use in the press and online.

“It’s a campaign that’s driven by the volunteers and that won’t change at all.”

Batrouney said that the popularity of Staying Negative means it will be around a while longer.

“We’ll be continuing this campaign indefinitely,” he said.

“It can go anywhere that gay men want to take it essentially.”

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