Introducing chemsex counselling FridayMonday.org.uk
Two London-based charities have worked together to provide a new digital resource for gay and bisexual men concerned with their relationship with sex, drugs and alcohol.
The Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) and London Friend have launched a new online counselling service at www.fridaymonday.org.uk, which includes online support groups, one-to-one virtual counselling, as well as a wealth of information on safer sex and drug taking. It was funded by the Public Health England HIV Prevention Innovation Fund and is especially aimed at men who live in more rural areas and out of the reach of services being provided in cities.
The digital counselling service will work in a similar way to Skype, with people able to speak with a counsellor from one of the charities on screen, or take part in support groups with up to 10 other people.
Some gay men have already been singing its praises. James* was concerned that chemsex was adversely affecting his health: “I was taking drugs every weekend. I’d meet people in groups and it would go on for days. Drugs would help me relax, but they also gave me an artificial sense of confidence that could be harmful. I had STIs more frequently and I knew I could do a better job at work if I’d been more alert and healthy.”
After accessing the online support available, he got engaged in counselling and now feels back in control. He thought the digital aspect was a major help. “Doing it online means that it’s not constrained by timings and locations. It’s great to speak to people who are empathetic and have experience of what you’re going through.”
Cary James, Head of Health Promotion at THT, argues the need for online services is crucial in HIV prevention and Chemsex support: “Mainstream services often don’t meet the needs of gay men whose drug and alcohol use is linked to their sex life. This can leave them feeling isolated. These online services will reach out to these men and provide specialist support from people who really understand and who will not judge, helping people to get back in control of their sexual and mental health.”
• For more info, head to FridayMonday.org.uk