23 Aug Sexual health outreach at fairs and festivals this summer
Written by: Avanti Arseculeratne
On a sweltering Sunday morning in Brockwell Park, Chad Morgan organises his stall for the Love Sex Life service as a part of the annual Lambeth County Fair. Chad describes how he met with around 40 people the day before- the first day of the fair.
“The merchandise was gone almost as soon as I laid it out on the table’’ he said, pointing at the QR code key rings, water bottles and packets of condoms on the desk in front of him. He describes some of the people who visited the stall, including a nurse who worked with Brook in the 70s who was nostalgic about her time there and the work she did. As well as a young man who was supportive of the work that Love Sex Life does, noting that he always sends potential partners a link to the Sexual Health London (SHL) testing site. Chad describes how happy he was to hear this as rates of testing are not very high in the Black community.
As the crowd grows- families, friends, and individuals enjoying the sun, the music and the food- one A man walks up to the stall and asks Chad what his stall is all about. When Chad explains that he is speaking to people about the importance of testing and about different contraceptive methods, the man tells him that he has an STI test every 6 months to 1 year. He requests a few key rings and a pack of condoms.
Then comes another person who says that she has been married for 30 years and therefore does not need to be tested.
“This is a common response I get while doing outreach,” describes Chad. “Many older people believe that they are not at risk for reasons such as this- for having been married for decades. However, black women between the ages of 50 and 64 are actually a high-risk group for HIV and they are often not offered testing”. Whereas there are numerous services for young people and increasing services for other demographics, this group remains one that is in need of more outreach efforts, hence LSL’s mission.
A few stalls down, Emily and Hajer prepare their resources for Brook’s Come Correct scheme for young people (aged 13-24) in the boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham. After signing up, young people can get a pack of 12 condoms (with two lubricant sachets) per week until they turn 25. Both of them have been involved in education and outreach for a number of years, and as young people curiously eye their stall and then continue walking with family members or else wander towards their stall, they greet them and explain what they are doing here.
“This scheme is a way of bringing sexual health services to the community,” explains Emily, as she describes how many young people might feel reluctant to visit a clinic due to long waiting lists or because somebody they know may see them (see end of post for clinic contact information).
As she is explaining this to me, two boys walk up to the stand. Hajer describes how once you have done this scheme for a while, certain questions and comments come up regularly.
“Sometimes people will say things for bravado or because they’re shy and it’s important to address what they say with serious responses so that they’re aware that you’re there and you’re listening and taking it seriously”.
One of the young boys when asked whether he has signed up for this scheme before, says yes- that he got a packet of condoms but that he doesn’t want them because they’re too small for him. Hajer and Emily go on to describe the importance of using a condom that fits for if it is not the right size, it will not work and they offer the boy a different size.
Other common questions they ask young people include what would happen if you were to put the condom on the wrong way and what you would do if you realised after having sex that the condom had broken.
“We want to make sure that they go away feeling prepared to deal with these kinds of situations,” says Emily.
Emily, Hajer and Chad will be involved in many more events moving through the summer, raising awareness for young people as well as adults. Keep an eye out for them and go visit their stalls!
Sexual Health Clinics in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham
• Camberwell Sexual Health Centre – 020 3299 5005
• Streatham Hill Clinic – 020 7188 7707
• Burrell Street Clinic – 020 7188 6666
• Walworth Road Clinic – 020 7188 7707
• Waldron Health Centre – 02030493500
• Trafalgar Clinic- 02088366969
If you would like to order an STI home test kit, you can do so quickly and easily here.