There are several hundred HIV positive young men in NSW identified in periodic surveys, but few of these people access existing social and support services.

Some of these men have told ACON this was because they felt uncomfortable being the only younger person in the room.

Over the next five weeks ACON will run workshops for young positive men under 29, developed with a small group of positive volunteers aged between 29 and 28, on topics of interest.

James was 24 when he was referred to ACON’s Genesis workshop for newly diagnosed people last year and has since participated in Positive Life’s after hours network.

The median age was about 40. They certainly weren’t in my age range. The next youngest was about 35, James said.

With young positive people there seems to be a scare factor involved. They’re scared of being identified with HIV and they don’t feel it’s a comfortable idea environment for them.

Young positive people need to know there are other young positive people out there.

The topics for the workshops will include sex, relationships, drugs and alcohol, treatment choices and disclosure.

Online [disclosure without consent is] massive. Even just in normal life, I’ve heard stories from bars, -˜Oh did you know this guy’s positive?’ There’s a lot of that going on, ACON gay men’s education manager Ben Bavinton said.

James was among the victims of unwanted disclosure -“ illegal in NSW -“ and found young people can’t trust their peers and often find themselves isolated.

Some don’t have the social skills, some don’t understand why disclosure is a problem, some are just bitchy. It’s probably a maturity factor, he said.

On the twinky-something scene, gossip is a fag’s best friend.

Hoping to find out how these issues affect younger positive people, the workshops will help ACON decide what it needs to do to cater for this group in the future.

We know they’re not accessing services very much, so the question for us is, is this because they don’t have any needs, because they don’t know about the services, or because they have different needs, Bavinton said.

ACON’s Young and Positive sessions will run each Wednesday, 6.30pm at 9 Commonwealth St until 9 April. Details: 9206 2034 or [email protected]

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