As part of our Time to Talk series, this week we will be focusing on STI’s – particularly Gonorrhoea. As the increase grows for Black Caribbean men being diagnosed, research shows they are less likely to use testing services, yet we’re more likely to have gonorrhoea. Black AC men may have had bad experiences with health services which may have put them off from going, PEasy is here to help put things right.
Marc Thompson, Director of The Love Tank CIC & Co-Founder of Prepster has been on a mission to increase STI screening within men. Working on a yearlong pilot project, funded by the Public Health England Innovation Fund, The Love Tank has partnered with Yorkshire MESMAC and Preventix Laboratories to Educate and test 1000 Black AC men in London and 200 Black AC in Hull for Gonorrhoea.
What was the aim of the project?
- Undertake 1,200 urine-based tests during outreach
- Enrol 500 men into sustainable SH services
- Increase Black men’s knowledge and awareness of gonorrhoea testing
- Dispel any testing and disease myths amongst the demographic
- Initiate dialogue amongst the men and their peers regarding sexual health and testing
- Gain access to popular spaces that are frequented by Black men.
The team outreached to multiple venues, including Pure Gym, The Gym, local independent gyms, and community sports organisations, focusing on the Shoreditch, Brixton, and Lewisham area. Another angle they took was appealing to younger audiences in African-Caribbean University societies and Black educational mentorship organisations.
Challenges that came with the project include:
- Confusion with COVID testing
- Lack of interest from venues + social spaces
- Sexual health not seen as ‘appropriate’ in some spaces
- The men
Engagement with Black men
When it comes to engaging with Black men about their sexual health, the PEasy project and Uzochi Nwaosu’s research contain similarities. Both took the approach of outreaching in spaces that they felt the community would reside and feel comfortable rather than calling out to ask for volunteers. Black men of various ages are willing to speak about sex, but in the context of how much they are having or the number of sexual partners, it has not been made the norm for them to speak about it in relation to health.
Another common theme is trust, Nwaosu found that due to Black men being highly sexually active, they often don’t trust their partners, which is one of their motivations for wearing condoms. The PEasy project found that Black AC men don’t trust health care professionals or that their information will stay confidential. Wearing condoms, shows a positivity around safe sex, the issue is, that Black AC men have a lack of trust when it comes to sexual relationships, and ties in with their lack of trust towards sexual health professionals.
The lack of trust that they have is one of the reasons they don’t feel safe when opening up about their sexual health, and this is shown when the project tried to ask individuals about getting tested. Their responses included:
- “I recently got tested”
- “I would automatically know if I had an STI”
- “Black people can’t get STIs because we have African blood.”
- “I’m not/haven’t been sexually active in a while”
- “I’m clean”
Which ties us into another issue that PEasy found – misinformation and cultural myths. Men growing up
What is needed for PEasy to continue their work?
As a result of this project, they found that to be able to deliver their work effectively time and resources are needed. One of their biggest challenges is breaking down cultural ‘norms’ and traditions which could be done by educating men – educating older man can help them teach the younger people within their communities about sexual health and create new healthy norms, or just educating younger men in general can help them perceive sex in a different way.
They also found that promoting good sexual health in a holistic way is the best way forward and that to connect with communities they need to utilise social media platforms and influencers who have direct links to the community and are trusted.
Are you interested in finding out more about PEasy? Or maybe you are a Black Caribbean man who would like to know more about their sexual health and get tested.