By Matthew Hodson | @matthew_hodson

Over the years, condoms have prevented hundreds of thousands of HIV infections. Condoms are one of the best and cheapest ways of preventing HIV and other STIs. When we talk about preventing HIV or other STIs, of course we should include condoms in that conversation. But condoms are not the only tool you can use to prevent HIV transmission.

When the HIV crisis began, gay men were expected to stop having anal sex altogether. Promoting condom use, back then, was seen as a controversial strategy. Gay activists, in particular, knew that asking all gay men to stop having any anal sex just wasn’t going to work.

Condoms weren’t ideal, both because many men don’t like using them but also because they couldn’t guarantee 100% safety. Condom use meant that we had to refer to ‘safer sex’ rather than ‘safe sex’.

There have always been men who haven’t used condoms. Some HIV prevention campaigns have affected to ignore this, or dismissed these men as if they were somehow bad people. If condom use comes easy to you, it may be hard to understand why it is difficult for other people.

I don’t believe that gay men who don’t or won’t use condoms should be ignored in HIV prevention. I support and encourage condom use but I think it’s appropriate that we provide information to help all gay men look after their sexual health. I believe that we need to inform and empower gay men to find a sexual strategy that works for them.

For some men, condoms are going to be the best prevention method. Not only are they cheap and effective (and visible – you know if you’re using condoms or not) but they also help to prevent other STIs being transmitted.

However, it’s also important that gay and bisexual men understand the impact that HIV treatment has on viral load, and the risk of HIV transmission. It’s vital that we are able to talk honestly about testing history and risk behaviour. We need to end the stigma around HIV that discourages HIV testing and honest conversations.

If we are going to stop HIV infections, we need to be able to use all the prevention tools that are available (and lobby for new ones, such as PrEP, to become available). We need to approach HIV prevention as a community, both those of us living with HIV and those who are not, working together to bring an end to new infections.

How can we ensure that gay men can enjoy the best sex with the least harm? At GMFA we want gay men to have all the information that they need to make better choices for better health - and to have great sex too!