Every year the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras attracts hundreds of thousands of people who descend on Sydney to enjoy the most colourful night of the year. From the parade through Sydney's Darlinghurst, the beating heart of Sydney's gay scene, to the numerous after parties and special guest appearances, Sydney's Mardi Gras is the highlight of the Sydney queer social calendar.
Make your Mardi Gras experience one to remember with these top tips to party safely:
- If you're drinking alcohol, keep track of how many drinks you've had to avoid injury or making yourself sick. Consider having a water between each alcoholic drink.
- Using illicit drugs like ecstasy, GHB or methamphetamine comes with risks. You don't know the purity, what other things have been added to them, the strength or how it will affect you. Avoid mixing alcohol with other drugs.
- Mixing alcohol with GHB can cause you to lose consciousness, check out ACON's Avoid the Drop Zone campaign for more information. It's important to tell someone you trust what you've taken, and to get help immediately if it's needed.
- If you feel like you need some support, look out for the ACON Rovers, a much loved team of volunteers who provide support and information at major LGBTI parties and events to make sure partygoers are kept safe. You'll find them wearing bright pink vests and looking out for people who might need a helping hand.
- Remember if you do need to seek help from a medical professional, they aren't interested in getting police If you need medical attention, a paramedic will not call police unless there is a threat to safety. It is vital that you or someone you know tells a paramedic what you have taken, so they can provide the best possible care,
- involved. If you end up partying harder than you intended, ACON and other organisations have support and programs related to sexual health, alcohol, drugs and counselling available. For details visit www.acon.org.au or www.pivotpoint.org.au for more information on substance support and a self-diagnosis tool that can be used to identify problematic use.
Eat, hydrate and stay cool
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially if you're drinking alcohol.
- Mardi Gras can be a big weekend with multiple parties, so make sure you eat during the evening and if you are kicking on through the night, try and have some small snacks to keep yourself going.
- Alcohol and other drugs can affect your body's ability to regulate temperature. If you find yourself feeling overheated while partying the night away, take regular breaks away from the crowds and allow yourself to cool down or seek help.
Take care of your mates
- You're a mate, not a doctor so don't be afraid to seek help for someone who is unwell.
- It's a good idea to stay close to your mates. Agree on a place and time to meet, in case you get separated. Don't rely on your mobile phone – your battery could go flat or the network coverage could be overloaded.
Take care of your mental health
- Large crowds can become overwhelming. If you're feeling overwhelmed or anxious, tell a trusted friend how you feel and move away from loud music and crowds. Find a calm place to chill out.
- Some drugs can enhance negative feelings like anxiety or bad thoughts. Avoid alcohol or drugs if you are already feeling emotional, depressed or anxious. Don't make any important decisions about life or relationships under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
Practice Safe Sex – Now There Are 3 Ways To Do It!
Think About How You Will Get Home
- Condoms play a vital role in preventing the transmission of HIV and other STIs, and with 60,000 free ACON condom safe packs at LGBTI venues and events during the Mardi Gras season, it's the cheapest and easiest way to stay safe.
- If a person is HIV negative, they can now take PrEP, an antiretroviral drug that prevents HIV negative people from becoming infected, If a person is HIV positive.
- It's now proven beyond doubt that HIV treatments can help reduce that person's viral load to an undetectable level, making it almost impossible to transmit the virus.
- There's no longer a one size fits all approach to safe sex. We can now choose from a range of strategies – condoms, PrEP or UVL – to maximise sexual pleasure while protecting ourselves and our partners from HIV. To find out more visit www.endinghiv.org.au.
- Make sure you and whoever you hook up with are both into it. Check for consent and make sure that you are both okay with what is happening
Before Mardi Gras, plan your way home and make sure you have enough money to pay for transport.Remember that it's illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol or any illicit drug and it's not safe to drive until you are sober and not under the influence of any drugs. Never get in a car with someone who has been drinking or taking illicit drugs drugs – it's just not worth it!
Visit the ACON website to find out everything you need to know about safe sex and consent.
For accurate information about commonly used party drugs check out the Your Room A-Z Drug listing.
Image Credit: Jeffery Feng Courtesy of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras