Two young man stand talking with each other.

Gay men are a remarkably resilient lot. We live in a heteronormative social environment. Still even in the face of prejudice and stigma, most of us reach out for experiences, feelings and a community that supports our resilience.

These days, we’re out and proud alongside our heterosexual brothers and sisters. We find pleasure, love and partners; buy and build businesses or find respect and acknowledgment in our chosen careers. We’re well known for thinking outside the box to achieve our hearts desires with chosen family structures and relationships. We’re at every strata of society and wherever we are, we contribute to the pride and well being of our communities.

While a recent Positive Life survey (2015) showed that 40% of our respondents had well controlled HIV and no other major health conditions. The remaining 60% lived with between one to eight health conditions, with depression as the most commonly reported secondary condition.

Even for those of us on a decent income, Sydney has become one of the most expensive cities in the world to live. With the demands of living surrounding any of us, an otherwise well-orchestrated life can easily become derailed. Sometimes it’s the domino effect of a relationship breakup. For others, the slow-burning fuse of depression can trip over into addiction and spiral out of control. The sudden diagnosis of HIV or any other condition, how unexpected or minor, can tip any of us over the point of what we call the ‘Fuck It’ factor.

So, what does the ‘Fuck It’ factor look like? It looks like self-isolating; it looks like overindulging in alcohol and psychostimulants; it looks like a gradual disengagement from prioritising health, neglecting medications (including HIV and other medications) or not following through with medical referrals and appointments. Thoughts of self-harm, sabotage or suicide are clear indicators it’s time to take action to reach out to someone.

It’s times like these we need our friends and supports to reach out to and let them know things might not be going so well. There is a role for our friends, community, and other HIV-positive men to reach out and make sure that our mates and our fuck buddies don’t succumb to despair and the ‘Fuck It’ factor. Your ‘gut feel’ for your friend is important to listen to. Other cues could be what the person is saying and doing don’t always match. Asking how someone is ‘travelling’ won’t start them thinking about suicide or self-delivery if it isn’t already on their mind. If life is so tough at the moment, giving them the opportunity talk about it will often lessen the intensity and lets them know that you care and they’re not alone.

When you see someone you know starting to withdraw and isolate; stop taking their medication(s) or go off the rails; reach out and invite them over for a drink, or a meal, or a walk in the park, or whatever. Whether you’re a gay guy living with HIV or not, diagnosed 35 years ago or diagnosed today, we need to ensure no gay men are left behind. We all have a role to play to look out for each other. Let’s continue to build a strong, unified and resilient community.

If you live with HIV and are looking for some support or contact call Positive Life (02) 9206-2177, 1800 245 677 (freecall) or email contact@positivelife.org.au

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