The young man at the centre of an unsafe sex allegation involving one of New Zealand’s Gay Men’s Health Safe Sex Poster Boys has admitted to New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF) staff that the allegation he made was done in spite – and is not true.
He went on to say that the allegation sprang from ill feelings generated by a stormy and recent relationship break-up:
“After our relationship ended, we had a big fight and wanted to be as spiteful as possible towards each other,” the young man said. “One way I thought of getting back at him was telling someone that we didn’t have safe sex, to see their reaction. And it caused a big problem.
“We used condoms throughout the whole relationship,” he confirmed.
The young man explained that he knew allegations of unsafe sex against a poster boy would get a reaction, so he selected a member of Wellington’s gay community who he knew would spread the story further.
An additional rumour that another Safe Sex Poster Boy had been involved in unsafe sex since the campaign began has been investigated by AIDS Foundation staff and has been found to be groundless.
“We are disgusted at specific individuals in the community, including some gay media, who have seen fit to spread such malicious rumours without any solid evidence to back them up,” says Douglas Jenkin, NZAF Campaigns Co-ordinator.
“One gay or bisexual man is being diagnosed with HIV every five days in New Zealand. Unsafe sex is a problem in our communities, and we should be working together to stop it, not seeking to discredit those who are brave enough to stand up and state their commitment to using condoms.”
All six poster boys have reiterated the fact that they do use condoms, and have been angered by the allegations, which have affected them personally.
Josh Chapman, who lost his father to AIDS in 1994, said he was upset by the allegations, and urged people to find out the real story before spreading rumours.
“I would never renege on the reason why I entered this competition,” he says. “You can lose somebody really close to you, and you also have to watch them suffer through the rest of their life. That’s not something I ever want to see other people have to deal with.”
Alternative category winner Munaam says he was “outraged” by the allegations. “I made a decision before joining this campaign that I wanted to stay safe, and in order to stay safe I knew that meant making condoms a part of my life.”
“I’ve had to deal with rumours like this before joining the campaign,” says Party Boy Christopher Olwage. “All of us discussed the possibility that we might get slammed by spiteful people. But getting the safe sex message out there is more important.”
Bear/Leatherman Roger Moore, like his fellow poster boys, says he is looking forward to continuing with the campaign, which focuses on the positive reasons why many gay and bisexual men use condoms.
“There’s no question about quitting,” he says. “We’re carrying on.”
“Some people are trying to attack us and kill our campaign, but I know I am definitely practicing safe sex,” says sportsman Liam Moir. “I’ve got more motivation now than ever.”
Businessman Scott McDonald agrees. “You can’t say you’re attacking the way the campaign was run or what it’s about without attacking the guys on the posters. We’re on the posters, we’re the face of it, so it does feel like a personal attack.
“The gay world that we live in, it can be a nasty little place. Being in the public eye, you’re bound to get some criticism. It’s our job to get out there and push the message harder.”
Eamonn Smythe, NZAF Acting Executive Director, says the organisation stands behind the Safe Sex Poster Boy campaign and all those who were involved in its production.
“This is an innovative campaign, which has been recognised internationally for its contribution in preventing the spread of HIV. The Poster Boys are real men with real stories who care deeply about actively promoting condom use among gay and bisexual men.”
The six Gay Safe Sex Poster Boys were chosen by the New Zealand gay community in a New Zealand AIDS Foundation competition – in the categories of Party Boy; Bear/Cub/Leather; Boy Next Door/Regular Guy; Sportsman; Businessman/Professional and; Alternative – last September to star in a media campaign to increase awareness around HIV/AIDS.