A Victorian rural HIV and STI prevention organisation has released a new resource on beats for men-who-have-sex-with-men in regional areas.

The wallet-size information pack — Beating Around the Bush — was developed by the Country Awareness Network (CAN) as part of the Take Care OutBack There project, in conjunction with the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Community Health Centre.

CAN executive officer Adam Wright told the Star Observer the new resource provides ‘non-judgmental’ information for those frequenting beats for causal sex in the country.

“The resource doesn’t condone or encourage beat use, but it also doesn’t discourage beat use,” he said.

“Basically, the fact remains they’ve always been around, we think they always will be, and we’re saying, here guys, here are some facts if you’re going to use beats. Protect yourself and protect others.”

Wright said a similar resource was developed around 10 years ago, however, the information was city-centric and recent reports of violence at city and country beats prompted a renewed need for information for rural men.

“What’s obvious in the resource is that there are certain risks sometimes … particularly places that have a reputation in the wider community as being a beat,” Wright said.

“We know that in the last year or two, Melbourne included, they quite often can attract homophobic violence and other dangers. So the resource is designed to talk about some of those risks, and how you can minimise them.”
Along with tips on personal safety to help beat users avoid violence, the booklet also encourages users to take responsibility for rubbish, such as condom wrappers, engage in safe sex and test regularly for STIs.

It also details how to avoid attracting complaints and cautions beat users of their rights if approached by police.

“Out in the country you don’t have the same choices of venues, sex-on-premises venues, bars and clubs and so forth, and quite often beats are an intricate part of the social network and fabric of country life in some areas,” Wright said.

“While beats are generally to meet other guys and have sex, not all the people who visit a beat visit them for that. At times it can be just basically to meet other guys and they may go off elsewhere to have sex later or as just a source for developing friendships.”

info: Beating Around the Bush can be downloaded from www.can.org.au or collected from CAN’s Bendigo office.

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