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Making it through Mardi Gras

Cue biodegradable glitter storm – Mardi Gras is here again!

It really is the most fabulous time of the year, and it’s fun for every stripe of the rainbow family. But as any Mardi Gras veteran will tell you, ‘having fun’ and ‘waking up feeling dusty in a random hotel room’ are two sides of the same coin.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement (which we highly recommend). But with all the pride, love and lusty pheromones in the air, it’s also easy to overlook some of the basics of staying safe and healthy.

So, just for you, we’ve pooled our experience and put together a handy plan for self-care at Mardi Gras – starting right now.

Appointments

Get out your calendar. It’s time to start making some calls:

  1. Your doctorBook a full HIV and STI test in advance. This will give you time to get results, and to get treated if necessary, BEFORE you bring any unwanted guests to the celebrations. You may also want to make an appointment to get tested a week or so after the event (allowing for any window periods).
  2. Your barber/hairdresser — There’s nothing like the feeling of a new ‘do. Book this in just before your first event, and walk in with that fresh-cut confidence.
  3. Your aesthetic specialist(s) of choice — If you’re doing any hair removal, spray tanning or other specialist aesthetic treatments, book an appointment at least a few days before you hit Oxford St. This will give your skin time to heal from any waxing/zapping/pricking, and help any rashes or swelling to settle down.

Shop for life essentials

Go out on your first day in Sydney and buy enough decent, nutritious food to keep you alive for your whole Mardi Gras.

The last thing you will feel like doing while you’re in recovery mode is hitting the supermarket, so plan ahead. Get meals you can either prepare quickly (e.g. eggs on toast, salads) or just reheat (e.g. meatballs, pasta) so you’re not ordering nuggets three meals a day.

“It’s not always easy to predict where the night will take you, so make sure you’re carrying a couple of condoms on you as well.”

Fresh fruit will help you rehydrate and you can easily turn it into a smoothie if you’re having trouble with appetite/solid food. Stock up on cold water. Get your electrolyte supplements, paracetamol and B-vitamins ready to go.

Your future self will thank you.

Be ready for sex at all times

This is not just a frame of mind.

Have condoms and lube ready in the bedroom from day one, but don’t stop there. It’s not always easy to predict where the night will take you, so make sure you’re carrying a couple of condoms on you as well. Lube is also available in compact, portable containers so you can be prepared anywhere, anytime.

Meds

If you’re taking any regular medications, including HIV treatment or daily PrEP, get your prescriptions sorted ahead of time. If you’re flying to Sydney, it’s a good idea to take an extra week’s supply and keep it in your carry-on bag in case of luggage loss or unplanned delays.

Now is also a good time to think about investing in a weekly pill organiser. For less than the price of a coffee, this handy bit of kit lets you keep track of your daily dose (or just keep track of the days) when you’re out of your regular routine.

Look out for your mates

You’re more than likely going to be celebrating Mardi Gras with friends (as well as making some new ones), so it’s important to look out for each other. If you’re going to be indulging in any recreational substances, let someone know so they can keep an eye out for you.

“…if you’re going home with someone, sneaking back to the darkroom, or planning to spend the night at the sauna, send a quick message to your wingman.”

It’s also a very good idea to read FAIR PLAY’s guide to myths and realities of drug laws in NSW. Similarly, if you’re going home with someone, sneaking up to the darkroom, or planning to spend the night at the sauna, send a quick message to your wingman.

And don’t let FOMO spoil the party for you and your crew — no matter how excited they are, friends don’t let friends drink on an empty stomach, or party outside all day with no sun protection.

Prepare for the unexpected

At some point, it’s possible that things will not go to plan, so be prepared:

  • Make sure you know your hotel/AirBnB address, for getting home from unfamiliar places
  • At events, do a quick check on arrival to locate the paramedic station, just in case
  • If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV and you’re not using PrEP, accessing PEP within 72 hours (ideally as soon as possible) can significantly reduce your chance of acquiring HIV
  • Know who to contact ahead of time if you lose your phone, your wallet or your meds

Don’t ‘miss your flight home’

You are fooling exactly nobody. Just book the extra day of leave.

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