SH:24 on the road

SH:24 has arranged a string of engagement activities in Lambeth and Southwark - to get to know residents and potential users of the service better. We are a small team but dedicated to raising awareness about SH:24 and know the importance of putting the wants and needs of service users at the forefront of the service.

Yesterday Andre and Mollie set-up a stall in Asda on the Old Kent Road, handed out 300 or so of our mini Moo cards, demoed the website on tablets, and had many positive conversations with shoppers who had (encouragingly) heard about the service but wanted to know more about how it worked. An enjoyable day - thanks to Asda for their support!

Last Saturday SH:24 participated in a LGBT engagement day at the Eagle club in Vauxhall. We have always thought that gay men would welcome the opportunity to use an online sexual health service - a group of people that tend to be digitally literate and savvy, proactive service users. At the moment about 16% of our users are gay men and we expected the uptake to be slightly higher. So the LGBT engagement day was a great opportunity to meet gay men, let them know that SH:24 is here, and also meet other groups/organisations working within the LGBT community.

We started the day off by setting-up our stall (on a pool table!) and speaking to users who were interested in the service. We had plenty of people taking our free condoms but also wanting to know exactly how the service worked. They were interested in how the STI kit arrived at their home (in a plain envelope), how and where they sent their samples to (in a free post envelope to the lab), and how quickly they received their results (24-72 hours). All good questions!

We had some other questions too: can I access the service in Hackney from one user and when will the service be avaiable across London from another user. Our answer - well we would really like to be able to offer the service more widely believing strongly in improving access to sexual health services - whether that be in a clinic or online. However, SH:24 is currently only commissioned by Lambeth and Southwark councils. This is where we originally developed the service but other local authorities and trusts are coming to us saying they would like SH:24 in their areas too. So hopefully in the future you will see SH:24 popping-up elsewhere!

Next was the open-mic presentations from the groups attending the event. Mark Healy, hate crime prevention coordinator, who organised the event, kicked-off. He explained that unfortunately hate crime had been going up in Lambeth and that an intelligence-led approach was being used to support prevention. Extensive outreach work in schools, libraries and other community venues educating people about LGBT issues is underway and the difference community champions could make was highlighted. Other groups speaking included Swish, Gallop, THT, Vauxhall One, and the Police.

SH:24 went up on the stage and described the service to the audience and how we built it. There were lots of questions including whether Hepatitis B and C could be included in the test (we currently aren't planning on doing so but will continue to review), how we help users understand about window periods (see image below), and again how the service could be accessed outside Lambeth and Southwark (email us or get in contact with your local council or councillor!). The day was finished-off nicely with a barbecue in the Eagle's garden.

So what are we up to next? Next Saturday SH:24 promotional material will be handed out as Pride moves through central London and on Sunday we will have a stall in Pride in the Park. We will also be at Lambeth Health and Wellbeing Strategy refresh next week and at local county fairs and festivals in July. See you there!