More than a decade ago, when I was beginning my journey as a young gay man, I had this idyllic view that happy gay relationships were like the heterosexual ones I saw on television. You know the type: white picket fences, or at least a fabulously decorated apartment, all held together with the power of monogamy. Call me naïve.

What I quickly learned was just how varied relationships were in our community and that they all could be healthy and happy, regardless of the type of arrangements and agreements they had about sex in and out of their relationship.

For some, however, broaching this topic with their partner can be a challenge and ensuring both parties have the same understanding of the agreement can also be a difficult task.

Luckily, a new interactive website has been launched for gay men to help them build healthier relationships.

The website has been developed by the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO), and encourages gay men to talk with their boyfriends or partners and help them come to agreements about their relationships.

The number of gay men in relationships forming explicit relationship agreements about the sex they can have with each other, and with other men if they do, has been decreasing over time.

Making these formal agreements has been shown to increase the chance of keeping to the couple’s arrangement, and keeping to these arrangements can help prevent the transmission and acquisition of HIV.

AFAO president Ian Rankin pointed out why this website is so valuable.

“A website that supports gay men in relationships to clarify and agree their expectations is very timely,” he said.

“Social research shows that fewer couples are reaching these agreements. A clear understanding between partners promotes healthy relationships and reduces the likelihood of disease transmission.”

National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS (NAPWA) president Robert Mitchell commended the development of the website, saying it is an important resource for all gay men, including gay men living with HIV.

“There are many gay men living with HIV in relationships, both with HIV-negative men and other HIV-positive men. It is important for all men in relationships to have agreements for the health of both men in that relationship,” he said.

If you want to develop more skills about relationships, the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre also runs a six-week workshop, appropriately named Relationships. For more information, call 03 9865 6700.

WEBSITE: www.letstalkaboutit.org.au

By JASON ASSELIN, Victorian AIDS Council

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