As the founder of Hungama, East London’s queer Bollywood club night, and host of BBC Three’s Big Proud Party Agency, Londoner Ryan Lanji knows a thing or two about partying.
Here, he shares his advice on how we can all enjoy ourselves while partying this Christmas, while considering the important measures promoted by the Do It London HIV awareness and prevention initiative.
The festive season is a time for fun for many in the LGBTQ+ community. But as we seek connection during this period, it’s important we do so safely by getting informed about HIV prevention – and supporting those living with HIV.
As a proud gay man of colour, HIV awareness is an issue close to my heart. I want all my friends and chosen family to enjoy themselves this Christmas, while making educated decisions to protect their sexual health and that of their partners.
So, here are my top 5 tips on integrating some HIV awareness into our Christmas festivities.
1 Make HIV awareness part of your routine
It’s so important that any sexually active person knows and understands their HIV status. Get into a habit of regular sexual health checks by visiting any sexual health clinic. It doesn’t have to be your local one. Familiarise yourself with the staff rather than having a series of anonymous visits, if you’re comfortable with that. Testing is quick, easy and free. Or if you’d prefer to be anonymous, you can order convenient at-home test kits from the Sexual Health London website. Knowing whether you have HIV is empowering and means you can take action to stay safe – and to keep others safe.
2 Understand the facts
We fear what we don’t understand. Take time to understand the facts around HIV transmission promoted by Do It London. Terms like “undetectable equals untransmittable” (or U=U) show that those living with HIV can live full, healthy lives without transmitting the virus if you stick to the treatment. Advancements like PrEP also prevent HIV transmission for people who don’t have HIV. But while these methods prevent HIV, they don’t protect against sexually transmitted infections, which is why you still need to use a condom. Equip yourself with knowledge to make informed decisions about your sexual health. Knowledge is power!
3 Support your community
The festive spirit is all about community. Check in with friends who may be struggling with loneliness this season. Have open conversations about sexual health. Recommend your preferred clinic if they want to get tested. And be a listening ear if someone confides they are living with HIV, to help end the misinformation and stigma still unfairly attached to an HIV diagnosis.
4 Know your limits – but still have fun
As the drinks flow, it’s easy for festive fun to blur into risky behaviour we later regret. Know your limits with alcohol and partying. Be clear on what you do and don’t feel comfortable doing sexually. Don’t let peer pressure or loneliness override your personal boundaries. And if you feel things escalating, reach out to a trusted friend and leave the situation. Protecting yourself is courageous, not cowardly.
5 Take charge of your health
Alongside testing, the sure ways to prevent HIV are condoms, PrEP medication taken daily or as needed, and being Undetectable = Unstransmittable (U=U). Make these four things part of your party preparation. And don’t be shy about asking partners if they have protection too. Ultimately, your health is your responsibility. Take charge of it!
As we immerse ourselves in the festive cheer, let’s also dive into a space of self-reflection and support. The festive season isn’t just about parties; it’s an opportunity to connect with ourselves and others. Loneliness should be met with outreach, and sharing our vulnerabilities is a strength, not a weakness.
Amid the revelry, let’s prioritise our sexual health, making it a gift to ourselves and our community. Testing, understanding, and embracing the pillars of protection are the keys to a healthier and more informed journey.
So, during this season, be present – not just in the celebrations, but in the choices that reflect kindness towards ourselves. Here’s to a festive season filled with joy, enlightenment, and choices that empower us all. Cheers to celebrating life with care and consideration!
Do It London is an HIV prevention and awareness campaign for all Londoners by the London HIV Prevention Programme. The campaign was first launched in 2015 in response to rising rates of HIV transmissions in the capital. Visit doitlondon.org to learn more.