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UKHSA - Innovative projects to trial new ways to improve sexual health and HIV outcomes
Projects include raising awareness of sexual health risks at sex-on-premises venues and vaccinations in non-clinical settings such as pubs and music festivals.
New and innovative projects involving the use of artificial intelligence (AI) chat bots, cartoon strips, night shelters and smart testing kits are among 14 schemes to benefit from a pioneering new fund to boost engagement and outreach activity to reduce sexual health inequalities across England, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has announced today.
Projects will offer services including vaccinations in community settings such as pubs and music festivals, raising awareness of sexual health issues at sex-on-premises venues, and communications to reduce anxiety around the mpox (monkeypox) vaccine, all with the aim of boosting engagement and outreach activity to reduce sexual health inequalities in underserved LGBTQ+ communities.
Each community based, voluntary sector organisation has been awarded up to £30,000 as part of the £200,000 mpox and sexual health (STI and HIV) outreach and engagement activity fund to enable this.
Examples of projects receiving funding include:
- increasing knowledge and access to sexual health information and testing among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) and Bangladeshi GBMSM in 8 north east London boroughs via a sexual health chatbot, designed to help answer basic questions about testing for HIV and STIs
- producing an mpox cartoon strip, focusing on the fictional experiences of one man, alongside a related animation short and GIFs for use across social media, promoting sexual health and mpox vaccination within London
- targeted vaccination events to reach minority groups with mpox vaccination, including offering access to other relevant vaccinations and access to STI testing and HIV testing via Sexual Health London (SHL) ‘smart’ kits
- supporting those who are struggling to adhere to HIV medications or who are anxious about getting tested with enhanced support for people who are concerned about their sexual health or about accessing local services
- delivering a series of tailored community based mpox and STI screening clinics in accessible, non-clinical settings such as at pride festivals and at music venues
- delivering a community workshop with the goal of understanding how to effectively engage with LGBTQ+ people at increased risk of mpox and other STIs, focusing on digital engagement, community outreach and resources for individuals from most at-risk populations
- developing resources on STIs and HIV prevention for Black African GBMSM in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham with culturally appropriate resources and messaging
Kate Folkard, Head of Programme Delivery for Sexual Health and Blood Borne Viruses at UKHSA, said:
The innovation and reach of voluntary and community sector organisations is a vital piece in the puzzle of how we effectively tackle sexual health inequality across England. These projects span the length and breadth of the country and will provide a valuable set of resources in England to build on the achievements already seen in the response to the mpox outbreak.
These organisations are the experts in their own communities and this fund will help further engage underserved populations and work with them to protect their health. I’m eager to see their innovative programmes come to fruition and we will work closely with them to help share the learning from their work across the country.
Minister for Equalities, Stuart Andrew, said:
We’re determined to ensure that LGBTQ+ people have access to the healthcare and protections that they need.
I’m delighted that the government has been able to fund this initiative and work with UKHSA to identify the necessary expertise that will make a real difference.
It’s great to see so many innovative proposals and I know that LGBTQ+ individuals will benefit from the increased outreach of vital public health messaging.
Minister for Primary Care and Public Health, Neil O’Brien, said:
Voluntary and community sector organisations play a key role in improving sexual health across the country. It’s great to see this investment in innovative projects that are working to achieve this in their local area.
We are taking further action to address disparities in sexual health by providing £4 million for our National HIV Prevention Programme, and more than £3.4 billion to local authorities through the Public Health Grant to invest in essential frontline services.
This funding will help ensure more people are aware of the risks surrounding mpox and their sexual health, enabling greater access to sexual health services and empowering people to manage their own health and protect others.
It will also help address issues such as inequalities in access to mpox vaccination, uptake of vaccination for other sexually transmitted infections and Blood Borne Viruses, in particular hepatitis A virus (HAV), hepatitis B virus (HBV) and human papillomavirus (HPV) and address the wider determinants of health behaviours that increase the risk of HIV and STI acquisition, such as mental health and drugs and alcohol.
Denis Onyango, Programmes Director at Africa Advocacy, said:
We are delighted to be one of the recipients of the mpox and sexual health outreach and engagement fund.
The grant will make it possible for us to develop culturally appropriate resources, leadership and capacity around STI and HIV prevention, testing and linkage to care for Black gay and bisexual men who have sex with men in south London.
Dr Will Nutland, founder of PrEPster and the Love Tank, said:
The Love Tank CIC will use this funding to reach key groups of eligible people to receive mpox vaccination through community vaccination events.
We know that there are groups who could benefit from vaccination but who have not yet received a first or second vaccination. This new funding helps us to address a key health inequality in this important area.
Sexual health inequality remains a major public health issue in England and in the last year has been further challenged by the global outbreak of mpox. While case numbers have now dropped significantly, with no new cases identified since December, the outbreak highlighted the challenges of effectively reaching and engaging with underserved groups, including those at highest risk, so they see important public health messaging and access services and vaccinations for sexually transmissible infections where needed.
Projects and spend will need to be complete by 31 March 2023.
Details of successful projects
The successful projects benefiting from the mpox and sexual health (STI and HIV) outreach and engagement activity fund are listed below with funding amounts, delivery locations and project details.
- £25,000 funding
- delivery location: London
The proposal is to undertake 10 to 12 under-the-radar (UTR) events between February and March 2023 reaching 300 to 400 individuals in non-clinical settings with mpox vaccination. Where possible, it will offer access to other relevant vaccination (for example, hepatitis A and COVID-19) and access to STI testing and HIV testing (as appropriate) via SHL ‘smart’ kits.
Brighton and Hove Switchboard
- £7,293 funding
- delivery location: Brighton and Hove
The proposal is to use social networks to release regular and accurate information for specific groups about testing and vaccination across Sussex. Plus, promote the availability of one-to-one casework with individuals who are concerned about their sexual health or about accessing local services. There will be a partnership at a night shelter on a weekly basis to talk to guests about their services.
- £21,285 funding
- delivery location: Lewisham
The proposal is to develop culturally appropriate resources, leadership, and capacity around STIs and HIV prevention, testing and linkage to care as well as the promotion, uptake, and adherence of pre-exposure prophylaxis through a 6-week campaign targeting at least 300 Black African GBMSM in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham. This will be supported through social media.
- £21,104 funding
- delivery locations: Leeds, Bradford, Rotherham and Hull
The proposal is to focus outreach on GBMSM with multiple sexual partners at higher risk of mpox, HIV and STI transmission who have not attended a clinic in the past 12 months. Over a 4-week period, a series of tailored, community-based mpox and STI screening clinics will be delivered. Clinics will be supported by outreach in bars and other LGBTQ+ venues.
PaSH partnership project
- £22,064 funding
- delivery locations: Salford, Manchester and Liverpool
The proposal is to deliver a workshop with community members with the goal of understanding how to effectively engage with LGBTQ+ people at increased risk of mpox and other STIs. The focus will be on digital engagement, community outreach and resources for individuals from most at-risk populations. A toolkit based on learnings from this workshop will be developed for future use.
Terrence Higgins Trust
- £22,000 funding
- delivery location: national
The proposal is to create digital resources and content, including promoting and amplifying existing video content in different languages, to raise awareness and knowledge of mpox in at-risk communities. This will be alongside working hard to increase uptake of second doses of the vaccine by outlining benefits and signposting to local sexual health services.
- £12,892 funding
- delivery locations: East and North London
The proposal is to increase knowledge and access to sexual health information (for example STI, HIV and mpox) as well as HIV and STI testing amongst GBMSM and Bangladeshi GBMSM in 8 north east London boroughs. This will be achieved via increased use and enhancement of AI chat bot technology and enhanced website functionality using latest design and development approaches.
- £15,351 funding
- delivery location: Nottingham
The proposal is to raise awareness about mpox within the migrant community in Nottingham by working in partnership with the African Institute for Social Development. A multilingual digital communications campaign will run, translating key information about mpox and the vaccine into different languages and sharing it through social media. Two open day events will be hosted.
- £6,808 funding
- delivery location: Kirklees
A partnership with local sexual health groups will deliver 3 pop-up community-based clinics, providing HIV point-of-care testing (PoCT), sexual health screening, mpox, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and HPV vaccines and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) provision to underserved LGBTQ+ communities. There are plans to target people who do not access clinical settings by targeting community assets used by underserved LGBTQ+ people.
Gay men’s health collective
- £10,000 funding
- delivery location: Greater London
The proposal is to enable the London-wide Play safer campaign, focusing on GBMSM engaging in chemsex, to distribute 20,000 resource packs via 250 outlets. In addition, an mpox cartoon strip about promoting sexual health and mpox vaccination will be produced. These cartoon strips are designed to be short, fun ways to spread key messages and drive traffic to the menrus website and NHS services.
- £5,040 funding
- delivery location: Birmingham and national
The proposal is to target underrepresented GBMSM from South Asian, African, African Caribbean and Eastern European populations within the LGBTQ+ community. Four interviews with GBMSM from those communities, who have accessed the HIV and STI testing service and mpox vaccination programme, will be filmed and will serve as role models for others within these underserved populations.
- £16,954 funding
- delivery location: national
The proposal is to work with GBMSM from South Asian communities to create a one-off video that talks about why South Asian GBMSM should focus on their sexual wellbeing. Ten pieces of content will be developed to sit on a new sexual wellbeing hub focusing on issues facing South Asian GBMSM alongside publishing a one-off issue of FS magazine, the health and life magazine from LGBT Hero, to promote the project.
- £7,500 funding
- delivery location: South West England
By targeting several local authority areas across Southwest England (Cornwall, Plymouth, Devon, Torbay, Somerset, Gloucestershire), the proposal is to engage directly with LGBTQ+ individuals creating a peer-to-peer model that will equip people to deliver informal interventions and provide safer sex resources on sexual health, HIV and mpox.
Trade Sexual Health
- £6,700 funding
- delivery location: East Midlands
Through a combination of in-person outreach and digital ‘netreach’ on hook-up apps and social media platforms, the proposal is to engage with various cohorts in the Midlands to advise them of the benefits of vaccination and highlight pathways to accessing vaccination for mpox. This advice will be embedded in broader conversations about STI and HIV prevention, testing, and treatment.
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