Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush has lent his star power to combat homophobia.

The revered Australian actor will take part in the fifth series of sexual health promotion series Queer as Fxxk, designed to encourage gay men to talk about sexual health.

Rush, who stars in the first episode of the new series, said he was pleased to take part.
“Homophobia is a huge issue that negatively affects the gay community and I was happy to participate in this initiative to highlight that,” he said.

“Also, it’s great to see innovation in the use of social media and health promotion that is informative, provocative and funny.”

The star-studded series also involves Australian Film Industry award winning director Neil Armfield and features comedians Denise Scott, Adam Richard and Judith Lucy.

Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre health promotion manager Colin Batrouney said the series, now in its second year, has been successful in publicising a safer-sex message.

“We’ve found that using social media tools and a funny, well-written soap opera is a great way of generating this vital conversation about safe sex, health and wellbeing and respect in our community,” Batrouney said.

“Promotion of health and wellbeing doesn’t have to be traditional printed material or advertising campaigns — indeed from the success we’ve seen and the positive responses from the community to Queer as Fxxk, social media allows greater engagement and discussion around these important issues.”

The health promotion series — developed by the Burnet Institute, Melbourne University, the Victorian AIDS Council and X:MACHINE Productions — has clocked up more than 10,000 video views on Facebook over a month.

Research of gay and bisexual men conducted after the series’ pilot showed one third of respondents reported the project made them discuss or seek out more information about HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

One third also said the initiative led them to seek advice from a health professional or a HIV/STI test.

Series five began on November 2 and new episodes are posted weekly.