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Big Gay Out a success from behind the clouds

PRESS RELEASE: February 12, 2008

Big Gay Out a success from behind the clouds

The threat of a rainy day did little to dampen the spirits of enthusiastic gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender crowds at this year’s Eighth Annual Big Gay Out in Auckland, held Sunday February 10th at Coyle Park in Pt Chevalier.

The Big Gay Out is organised and sponsored by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF) and Marquis Condoms as a festival of fun and affirmation. It aims to maintain understanding of HIV in Auckland, build strong communities, and encourage safe sex among gay and bisexual men – who remain the most at-risk group for HIV transmission within New Zealand.

By 2pm, the dark clouds and drizzle had lifted and attendance was swelling at the entertainment stage, food stalls, and various attractions, including the Gay Men’s Health Safe Sex Poster Boy tent.

The Safe Sex Poster Boys are winners of a nationwide competition held in 2007, online and in gay and bisexual men’s venues, to find role models for safe sex. The six volunteers proved a popular element of the day, entertaining crowds with an Ink’d underwear parade and distributing nearly 6,000 condoms throughout the afternoon.

Prime Minister Helen Clark, in attendance at the event, made special mention of the Poster Boys and the fight against HIV and AIDS, during her address from the main stage.

“[It] makes you feel fantastic as a human being to see wonderful guys like this who’ve come out and said, we’re going to stand up, we’re proud and we’re going to promote safe sex, because always on health issues prevention is better than cure,” she said. “This message is incredibly important.”

Recruiters for the Gay Auckland Periodic Sex Survey (GAPSS), conducted by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation in collaboration with the University of Otago, also had a very successful day. Over 1000 men took part in the biannual study of sexual behaviour and attitudes to HIV.

“This is the largest number of surveys ever collected at the Big Gay Out, beating our previous collection record by over 200,” says NZAF Senior Researcher Peter Saxton. “So a huge thank you to everyone who participated on Sunday. The GAPSS team will now be visiting Auckland gay bars, saunas and cruise clubs for the rest of this week, so that other guys will be able to have their experiences counted in the study.”

NZAF Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier says she’s pleased to see the Big Gay Out continuing to grow from strength to strength each year.

“We were particularly heartened to receive public support from both major political parties for the ongoing work of the New Zealand AIDS Foundation, and to host both the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader John Key at this event,” she says.

“One gay or bisexual man is still being diagnosed with HIV every five days in New Zealand, and the numbers of New Zealanders living with HIV continues to grow. It’s crucial that this ongoing health threat is recognised at the highest level.

“We would also especially like to thank our organiser Jonathan Smith and the many volunteers who helped the day run smoothly, managing the entertainment stage, the information tent, collecting over $2,000 in donations, and acting as ambassadors. The Big Gay Out is a major GLBT community event and it would not be possible to run without support from our communities – including the many thousands who attended!”


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