Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre Questions require answers: that is a bit of a ‘duh’ statement, but answers to questions are what the guys who volunteer for the Outreach Project at the Victorian AIDS Council are about. The most popular questions asked are of course to do with sex. ‘Is oral sex safe?’ remains the most popular question and to a degree the one with the easiest answer.

I used to answer it this way: if oral sex was the main way for HIV to pass from one person to another, then the numbers of people living with HIV would be sky-rocketing. Damage within the mouth provides the most efficient way for HIV to be transferred from one person to another when we are talking about oral sex.

Damage within the mouth can come about in a number of ways. Poor dental hygiene can lead to cuts and abrasions but these cuts can also be caused when brushing your teeth too vigorously. Also, a visit to the dentist can sometimes leave folks with the odd abrasion in the mouth. There are some easy ways to discover if you have any damage in your mouth: you can gargle with a commercially available mouthwash or with warm salty water. Alternatively, swill a mouthful of a spirit based alcohol inside your mouth.  The mouthwash will definitely find any cuts in your mouth. If in doubt, you can always cover the penis you want to suck with a latex or non-latex condom.

The second most popular question relating to sexual health relates to testing for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.  When I am training potential volunteers for Outreach work it is not unusual for that ‘duh’ response when I suggest that the best answer to questions about testing is to refer the person asking to either their own doctor, to one of the HIV specialising doctors or clinics, or more generally to the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre (MSHC).  You may think this is an obvious answer but for some men going to see a doctor is a last resort, most of whom when asked say they can’t get there during working hours and outside of these, their doctor isn’t available.  The MSHC have a clinic on Thursday evenings. You need to make an appointment but check out www.mshc.org.au.

The next training for the Outreach Project is on 10 & 17 November.  If you are interested in joining the team check out www.vicaids.asn.au/outreach-program  for further information.

by TEX MCKENZIE

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