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Thursday 29 June 2017

Mr Gay NZ defends his condomless sex

Posted in: New Zealand Daily News
By Daily News staff - 15th February 2017

The new Mr Gay New Zealand is defending being active in bareback sex, saying as an HIV-positive man his virus is suppressed to a level that is consistent with NZ AIDS Foundation guidelines and that he always informs sex partner of his HIV status.

Charlie Tredway

After Charlie Tredway, who works as a community outreach staffer for the NZAF, won the Mr Gay New Zealand sash on Sunday afternoon, several readers linked his name to a barebacking website which he has used for over a year.

"I got my HIV from a partner who didn't tell me he had the the virus. So I'm always open and transparent about that," he says. "I believe people need to have that information to make their decision" about what kind sex to have.

Tredway says he is "not out there advocating condomless sex" but believes his undetectable viral load which is frequently monitored is a suitable alternative HIV prevention method.

The NZAF agrees, noting that in recent times it has been able to endorse a variety of measures other than condoms to minimise HIV transmission. But it says condoms are still its much-preferred method as they are cheap, readily available and can stop transmission of other STIs.

"Tredway notes that "HIV+ people get much more sexual health monitoring that anyone else out there as a part of a comprehensive health strategy."

My whole platform for entering in Mr Gay NZ was to bring visibility to issues facing people living with HIV. The stigma, the judgment, the demonization and outdated thinking that still seems to be so prevalent. First and foremost I am a human being, one with a sex life to navigate consensually just like everyone else in our community.

Asked if barebacking is a good look for an employee of the NZAF or a Mr Gay New Zealand Tredway says he is “less concerned with how my personal, private sex life looks as a representative in any format than I am with the quality of work I put out to draw attention to a myriad of issues facing PLHIV. And how that same stigma, those same misconceptions are in actually fact an insidious barrier to staying safe through any of the means available. Whether it be Condoms, Testing proportionately to both risk and frequency, PrEP and of course Treatment as Prevention and managing your viral load. All of these tools are vital and play a part, and I am a firm, outspoken advocate of them all equally.”

Asked if he has a message for people who have been celebrating his win and to whom he voiced high expectations of his tenure from the Big Gay Out stage, Tredway says he has a very simple message:

“I am honoured and touched that you have allowed a person living with HIV to transcend stigma and represent you as Mr. Gay NZ. If this has let you down or broken your trust in my message and what I am trying to achieve I regret that and that alone. We need to be having a frank discussion about safe sex and sexual health, not as it was in the late 90’s and early 2000’s- but as it is now in 2017. And we are in a time where we have more highly effective, scientifically proven tools than ever before that can turn the tide on new transmissions but we need to give airtime and thought to all of them as they are all vital and in tandem will achieve our goals. If this is a catalyst to that discussion then I am as always willing to risk stigma to do exactly that.”

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