|The six staunch Safe Sex Poster Boys After almost a week of public scrutiny preceded by several weeks of gay community rumour and innuendo, all six of the NZAF's Poster Boys have weathered the 'did one or did one not have unsafe sex' controversy with their commitment to the campaign intact. An investigation by the NZAF revealed the original source of the rumours to be a youth who had broken up with a Poster Boy in January and who has told the NZAF he made his false allegation out of spite. That revelation ended weeks of community speculation which enveloped all six Poster Boys, as neither the accuser nor the accused poster boy could be named for various professional, legal and ethical reasons. All six have made public statements expressing their distaste regarding the spread of the allegation, which many have seen as a personal attack, and reiterating their commitment to the Safe Sex Poster Boys campaign, a major part of the AIDS Foundation's 2008 HIV prevention and education strategy. Their determination is perhaps best summed up by 'Bear/Leatherman' Poster Boy Roger Moore: "There's no question about quitting," he says. "We're carrying on." Fellow Poster Boy Liam Moir says the whole affair has made him even more determined to see the campaign through. In a press release distributed by the NZAF yesterday, Poster Boy Josh Chapman, who lost his father to AIDS in 1994, says he was upset by the allegations, and urged people to find out the real story before spreading rumours. "I would never renege on the reason why I entered this competition," he says. "You can lose somebody really close to you, and you also have to watch them suffer through the rest of their life. That's not something I ever want to see other people have to deal with." "I've had to deal with rumours like this before joining the campaign," says 'Party Boy' Poster Boy Christopher Olwage, who says that he and his fellow Poster Boys were aware of possible recriminations when they signed up to the campaign. "All of us discussed the possibility that we might get slammed by spiteful people. But getting the safe sex message out there is more important." 'Alternative' category Poster Boy winner Munaam, is less resigned to the effect of the controversy, saying he is "outraged" by the allegations. "I made a decision before joining this campaign that I wanted to stay safe, and in order to stay safe I knew that meant making condoms a part of my life." 'Businessman' Poster Boy Scott McDonald has felt the effects of the allegations, and of criticisms voiced publicly about the execution of the campaign, very personally. "You can't say you're attacking the way the campaign was run or what it’s about without attacking the guys on the posters. We’re on the posters, we’re the face of it, so it does feel like a personal attack. He feels the allegations and those who promoted them are symptomatic of a nasty aspect to the gay community and culture.
"The gay world that we live in, it can be a nasty little place. Being in the public eye, you're bound to get some criticism. It’s our job to get out there and push the message harder." "Some people are trying to attack us and kill our campaign, but I know I am definitely practicing safe sex," says sportsman Liam Moir. "I've got more motivation now than ever." Eamonn Smythe, NZAF Acting Executive Director, says the organisation stands behind the Safe Sex Poster Boy campaign and all those who were involved in its production. "This is an innovative campaign, which has been recognised internationally for its contribution in preventing the spread of HIV. The Poster Boys are real men with real stories who care deeply about actively promoting condom use among gay and bisexual men." The Safe Sex Poster Boys are this weekend winging their way on Air New Zealand’s Pink Flight to Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, and will be marching in the Mardi Gras parade. The flight, including two nights accommodation, was part of the prize package for the six winners in the nationwide Safe Sex Poster Boy competition, held late last year. "This is a way for Gay Men's Health to reward these staunch community volunteers for putting themselves up as spokesmen for safe sex, as well as reinforcing that message," says Douglas Jenkin, NZAF National Campaigns Co-ordinator. "Hundreds of gay and lesbian New Zealanders make the annual pilgrimage to Mardi Gras, which is one of the world’s biggest and best known GLBT community celebrations." Jay Bennie - 26th February 2008