The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade began in 1978, when hundreds of activists marched and danced through Sydney. The event was organised to support and celebrate New York’s Stonewall movement and to protest criminalisation and discrimination against homosexuals. The peaceful protest ended with police violence, mass arrests and public shaming from government and media. It was a defining moment for the LGBTQI+ community and the fight for equality. Today the parade is a space to protest, celebrate, advocate for equality, and to honour and grieve for those who’ve been lost.

ACON rovers are there to help

If you’re feeling unwell at a Mardi Gras event, looking for water or other basic info, or you’re worried about how a drug might be affecting you,  approach an ACON rover for assistance and advice. They aren’t security or police—they are only focused on your health and safety.

Harm reduction when using drugs

Mardi Gras is an exciting time with lots of new experiences on offer. It can also be overwhelming! You can reduce some of the overwhelm by equipping yourself with good, harm-reduction information. The NUAA website and the NUAA Instagram page both feature regular updates about drugs in circulation that might have unexpected side effects or risks, and how to mitigate them. If you’re planning to party hard, party safe! Head to the party portal at ACON’s Pivot Point for more tips on looking after yourself and your friends.

You can test your own drugs using reagent testing kits, which can be bought online or at some tobacconists. Testing can help identify whether drugs are safe to take, and if there are other drugs mixed in.

There has been a recent spike in opioid overdoses after taking cocaine or methamphetamines because the drugs contain undisclosed heroin. Naxolone is a medication that can help treat opioid overdose – you can order naxolone for free via the NUAA website. You will have to complete a quiz to help you identify an overdose and administer naxolone safely.

It can also be useful to know your rights if you are stopped by police.

Free sexual health testing

With so much going on throughout Mardi Gras season, it’s a good time to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and blood-borne viruses. There are a range of clinics around Sydney that offer free, confidential rapid testing to a range of groups, including men who have sex with men, trans and gender diverse people, and sex workers. Testing is free even if you don’t have a Medicare card.

Testing for Mandarin-speaking men who have sex with men

ACON offers a clinic for rapid HIV and STI testing, for cis and trans men who have sex with men, and facilitated by Mandarin-speaking doctors, nurses and peer workers. The clinic runs every Wednesday and Thursday, 2:30–6:15pm at ACON in Surry Hills. Your results will be available in 30 minutes. Make sure to select the Surry Hills location when you make a booking.

If you are concerned about taking an STI test or a HIV test due to your visa status, contact us for free, confidential advice.

Trans Vitality workshops hosted by ACON

ACON will be hosting a series of 2-hour workshops from March to May as well as one-off sessions for trans community throughout 2024. Find out more.