Out health trainers work across London giving sexual health information, answering questions and doing free, rapid HIV tests. This week’s blog is a chance to hear a little bit about what exactly that service entails from one of our health trainers, Terry Riley.
Terry – GMI Health Trainer
What’s your title? I am a health trainer with the GMI Partnership. I work for the outreach arm of the HIV prevention work we do. In other words, I am one of the most visible people working here and I am always working at different places across the city.
What do you do when you’re there? As a health trainer, I am the first point of contact for many gay and bisexual men seeking advice and support. I always bring a range of materials with me (such as condoms, lube, leaflets and booklets) and am on hand to answer any questions that men might have about sexual health. I also do sexual health check questionnaires, which are a chance to give guys information about safer sex, STI’s, HIV and where to get tested. I help guys get a little more support about their sexual health into services across London, such as counselling, mentoring and group support. At some shifts (for example on Saturday afternoons at Ku bar, or on Thursday evenings at Expectations), I do rapid HIV tests (which give the result within a couple of minutes!). My work often involves working with partnership organisations and clinics in order to provide the best service possible for our clients.
OK, so where do you work? The great thing is that we work in a whole range of venues from bars and clubs in central London (like Soho) and further afield too, like Clapham, Vauxhall and Shoreditch. We also work in sex on premises locations such as saunas, like Chariots and in clinics like 56 Dean St and CLASH (Mortimer clinic). We are always at the most important ‘gay events’ in London, such as the London Pride and other festivals. So it’s a real mixture of places!
What’s the most interesting thing about the job? My work is really about connecting with people, which I love! You never know what you are going to talk about on any given night. Everyone we speak to is different and has individualistic needs. For example, one outreach shift you could be talking about drug or alcohol use with an older gay man and the next one you might be answering questions about coming out and relationships with someone who is young and curious. Next you could be working with someone married who doesn’t consider themselves to be gay or bisexual and answering questions about where to get a HIV test or how STI transmission occurs. It’s never boring and always interesting! If I go home at the end of a shift and feel that I have connected someone with the right information or support that they need, then I feel my work has been worthwhile!
Status Assumptions – A Frequent Discussion Topic for Health trainers (AIDS Vancouver Poster)
What are some common questions you are asked? I am really asked everything and anything about sexual health to be honest. Some questions I am frequently asked are: Where can I get a HIV test? Have I put myself at risk? How do the drugs I’m taking impact my HIV/STI risk? How can I keep myself safe sexually? How can I bring up using a condom with other guys?
In three words how would you describe the health trainer outreach programme? Friendly, non-judgemental and supportive!
If you would like more information on the health trainer programme please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or have a look at our website here. For information on where our health trainers will be at different times over the next month or so please take a look at the calendar here.