What is it? How does it work?
I don’t know what mentoring means to you, but for me it conjures up memories of being taken out of Maths lessons to help those who felt algebra was a cruel from of torture with exercises that I felt equally lost about. That was educational mentoring, which, as you can tell, I didn’t feel particularly enamoured about, but one type of mentoring that I do feel much more positive about is sexual health mentoring which I discovered when I started working for GMI.
Sexual health mentoring provides the opportunity to explore some issues related to sexual behaviour with a peer. It is a novel and innovative approach to sexual health work, but is not currently very common. However, it has already been used in various areas with objectives such as HIV prevention, STI reduction and improving knowledge around testing. One example comes from Korea where sexual health mentoring with adolescents successfully resulted in significant changes in behaviour and attitude in ways that improved participants’ sexual well-being . Closer to home, the college of Haringey, Enfield and North East London has used a team of sexual health mentors to talk to young people about pregnancy, contraception and STIs. This programme was deemed effective largely because young people were more comfortable opening up about their sexual health to peers rather than to professionals and also as a result of its interactive nature. In a different vein, another study published in America showed that mentoring can be used to successfully reduce risky behaviour amongst those who are HIV negative and injecting drugs. So, it seems that mentoring can be an effective tool in eliciting behaviour change and improving sexual well-being. It also seems to be an approach that is popular with at risk groups. One study, which asked young gay and bisexual men which method of HIV prevention they thought was useful, identified sexual health mentoring from older peers as particularly effective. It was seen as confidential, fun and non-judgemental which might explain why it is increasingly being used in different sexual health settings. One of these is with gay and bisexual men on the GMI mentoring programme.
What is GMI Mentoring About?
The GMI Mentoring project is part of GMI’s free sexual health services which are part of the Pan London HIV Prevention Programme. The mentoring programme (like the counselling and one-to-one health trainer programmes) is for anyone who identifies as gay, bisexual or trans, is having unprotected, is for anyone who is HIV negative and living in London. It is an enjoyable, confidential and friendly way to explore some of the factors influencing the unprotected sex mentees are having in a relaxed and informal way with a trained mentor. Mentors and mentees work their way through various modules on issues such as self-esteem, drugs and alcohol, sexuality and condom use with the aim of bringing the mentee’s behaviour in line with their desire to practise safer sex. What’s more, the programme shows concrete changes in behaviour, attitude, skills and knowledge, mirroring the studies above, and, as a consequence, is a small but important part of HIV prevention work here in London.
To find out more about the mentoring programme, or any of the other free services we offer here at GMI please get in touch with me at – firstname.lastname@example.org