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Life begins at 40... when you’re “cocksure”

Life begins at 40... when you’re “cocksure”

Just because you’re gay and over 40 doesn’t mean you’re sexually unattractive or “over the hill” says a new innovative health campaign by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation’s Gay Men’s Health programme.

Launched at the Outtakes film festival in Auckland last week (Thursday May 26), the Foundation is breaking new health promotion ground with “Cocksure”, Aotearoa New Zealand’s first ever HIV prevention and men’s health promotion campaign designed for gay, bisexual, and other men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) 40 years and over.

Posing the question: “Does life begin at 40?” the campaign says the answer is “yes” if you’re “Cocksure.”

Says Douglas Jenkin, Gay Men’s Health coordinator: “As part of the response to the record levels of new HIV diagnoses in New Zealand in 2003 and 2004, including a 39% increase among MSM from 2002, the Foundation hosted a series of community forums last year asking what people thought was driving the increase and what could be done about it. Those forums were surprised to learn that the average age of new infections amongst MSM was 39. This promoted a lot of debate about aging and ageism in the gay community and the lack of positive images and HIV prevention resources of and for older men.”

Jenkins says the forums and other research by the Foundation and overseas AIDS organisations found there were common themes for older gay men around HIV risk behaviours. These studies indicate strongly that older gay men can be at elevated risk of HIV because of a lack of positive role models for ageing in their communities, loneliness, poor self image about their bodies, sexual naivety among those “coming out” later in life, and a compromised ability to negotiate the safe sex they want because they feel they’re not attractive enough to insist on what they want out of an intimate encounter.

Other studies have also reported that older men can have more problems with maintaining erections during condom use, but lack resources and education to explain how to overcome this.

“The Cocksure campaign will involve a series of workshops throughout New Zealand intended for MSM 40 and over. These workshops will address such issues as: body image, ageism, drug use (especially in the areas of sexual dysfunction and/or enhancement), internet hook-ups, sexual health, and finding/identifying “community”. The workshops aim to help men discuss these issues, learn skills to overcome problems, improve their self esteem around age and body image and develop assertiveness around ensuring that their intimate encounters are what they want and are safe.

The Cocksure workshops will start touring New Zealand late July/early August with the campaign running over an extended period to reach as many parts of New Zealand as possible.

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