The 2nd European ChemSex Forum took place a few weeks ago in Berlin, and Spectra were able to send some of our team members to take part and up-skill on the latest news, findings and data.
Joining fellow sexual health professionals from all over the globe, who had come together at the Mercure Hotel MOA Berlin, were Spectra Programme & Volunteer Manager Anthony Hunte, Programme Manager Dale Mundell and Spectra’s GMI HIV Prevention Coordinator Gianluca Failla.
We asked them to feedback on highlights, thoughts and findings that had stood out for each them and they have shared those below:
“Throughout the conference we broke off into smaller groups to thrash out the issues, problems, directions taken, solutions found and built connections with members attending the conference.
Each country, each participant organisation, sharing their own working and personal experience of Chemsex. The overriding theme of isolation was ever-present and the response being to create avenues for clients to access services. No organisation is too small or too inexperienced to deal with helping a client through the Chemsex minefield.
We must take the bull by the horns and do what we can for our clients. Chemsex is not going to go away. Shaming those deep in the world of Chemsex isn’t going to solve anything. We need to be visionaries and leaders to overcome the hurdles ahead.
Spectra should be looking into the role of harm reduction in Chemsex users. However, the Harm reduction strategies of the UK are more-or-less focused on opioid harm reduction – with a focus on needle & syringe programmes and opioid substitution therapy.
We need to investigate the urgent need for the development of stimulant harm reduction for the Chemsex cohort within the LGBT community as a vulnerable population. Vulnerable populations are still largely seen as discrete entities and intersectional and the need is not yet accounted for. The intersection between MSM & people who inject drugs is particularly important for Chemsex.”
“My experience in Berlin was great for several reasons, more so a great opportunity to network with other organisations and colleagues from all over Europe.
It has been a great opportunity to learn from other experiences and to share ours (even if they are limited).
Personally, getting to meet colleagues working in sexual health, that I admire for their experience and for the way in which they keep helping our community was amazing. People like David Stuart, Greg Owen, Marco Patti, Monty Moncrieff, Ben Collins, and more. Everybody there was great, and I really loved that we all shared the phrase “We are here, because we care”.
I had the chance to meet a colleague from Berlin, Thorsten Goldhagen, a volunteer peer-led organisation, which hosts a series of Chemsex meeting points in Berlin, and Leo Knoops, who works for an organisation in Amsterdam, helping the community in Netherlands trying to reduce harm in subs misuse.
I learnt a lot and came back to London wanting to help our community more in dealing with it. It has been an opportunity of self-growth for myself.”
“A highlight of the forum would be the presentation by Bernard Kelly – a very insightful and engaging presentation that was relevant to the work Spectra do in Wandsworth and West/Central London. Making personal connections with community leaders such as Bernard, Ben Collins and Brian Teixeira will help put Spectra on the map with regards to tackling problematic issues related to drugs and sex within the MSM community.
Watching the Chemsex Monologues and taking part in the discussion allowed us to build upon the relationships made. The post-performance discussion covered a wide range of topics that would not necessarily be discussed outside the context of an MSM safe space, including our relationship with wider society and whether there is justification for separatism.
Spectra made solid relationships with a Dutch harm reduction organisation called Mainline, who have been helpful in offering advice, support and resources around offering harm reduction services in London.
Other organisations that Spectra included a French HIV support organisation called AIDES, who presented at the forum and shared a lot of time with the Spectra representatives, the Courtyard Clinic and Wandsworth public health team – who expressed their wish to collaborate with Spectra on the reformation of a Wandsworth based Chems clinic, and a French harm reduction organisation who supplied samples of sterilisation kits, clean needles and other useful harm reduction resources.”