Sakander Sultan Mahmud is a third year MBChB student. Sakander undertook a community placement with Yorkshire Mesmac (a sexual health project) working in HIV prevention and sexual health promotion work with bisexual men.
Why choose MESMAC as your community placement?
It is obvious, that without the support MESMAC offers, many of the service users would not know where to go
for sexual heath advice specific to their LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) needs.
The objectives set out at the start of the placement ensured I participated in a wide range of tasks. Research was done about pre and post exposure prophylaxis to HIV. These are vital anti HIV drugs if taken before or after exposure to HIV can significantly reduce the risk of acquiring the virus. This is crucial information that should be communicated to the LGBT community.
The placement involved observing ‘testing times’ sessions - free, confidential HIV testing sessions, with results in 20 minutes and nothing stored on medical records. It was surprising to learn how many people said they would not get HIV tested if they could not do so at MESMAC, as they did not feel comfortable doing the test at their GP practice.
Outreach work involved distributing safer sex packs out in the LGBT bars and at known public sex environments to promote better sexual heath and inform the community of the work MESMAC does. Not knowing that cruising places existed, it was eye opening to see the lengths some men would go to, as the
weather was extremely cold and wet and the areas were pretty dark. It did not seem the most convenient of ways to meet men for sex.
I also participated in condom packing parties held by MESMAC. These are informal social events, where volunteers make the safer sex packs containing two condoms and two sachets of lube. The packs are freely available in LGBT bars, posted out to service users who request them via the MESMAC website and are vital in promoting better sexual health in the LGBT community.