Spectra’s HIV Prevention Co-ordinator for GMI, Gianluca Failla recently wrote an article for Italian website Gay News which has been translated below. Detailing the history of GMI and Gianluca’s role within the partnership.
Link to the full article can be found here: http://www.gaynews.it/2019/06/26/gmi-partnership-come-fornire-un-servizio-unico-di-salute-sessuale-in-tutta-londra/
The GMI Partnership is a 10-year old partnership made up of three London-based organisations – Spectra, METRO and Positive East. Initially they came together to challenge the usual HIV prevention methods and bring them in line with the changing agendas around Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) and their sexual health. Considering the diverse needs of the communities affected by HIV throughout London, they recognised that a combined partnership would have a greater impact than those of each individual agency working alone.
Today GMI provides high quality, pan-London, HIV prevention and support services to the LGBTQ+ and Black, African and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, including anyone who is not British but living in London. Annually our work in London, puts us in contact with approximately 86,500 MSM where we conduct 1,450 HIV tests, and distribute more than 150,000 packets of condoms and lubricant (the condom and lubricant distribution is done in partnership with Freedoms). Last year we were involved in a project which increased awareness of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) in 1,125 MSM, women, BAME and trans people. In 2015, when HIV self-testing in the UK became available to the public, we provided coaching to anyone who wanted to know how to use the self-testing for themselves. We have over 60 volunteers from the affected communities who are trained to conduct outreach (even through Grindr) and to do testing. Without the volunteers we would never get the work done as on a daily basis our venue sessions are usually quite busy.
As one of GMI’s Prevention Coordinators, my daily job with GMI entails travelling around London to various venues (presently we work with 55 different venues), engaging with individuals through pre-test discussions, conducting HIV testing and, together with our volunteers, distributing prevention packs containing condoms and lubricant. We not only provide HIV finger prick tests (with results in 5mins), but recently we have initiated home testing kits for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), to be able to offer a full sexual health screening service to those who require it.
We also advocate for the use of PrEP and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) and give people as much information about these relatively new prevention options. As part of a combination prevention approach we also discuss aspects of Treatment as Prevention (TasP) and Undetectable equals Untransmittable (U=U). Treatment as Prevention refers to the use of HIV medication to help reduce transmission, for example, through the use of PrEP. If you are living with HIV and you are taking HIV medication regularly as prescribed by your doctor and you maintain an undetectable viral load – the amount of HIV in the blood – you cannot sexually transmit the virus to others. This is what we mean by U=U. It’s important to have all the facts about all the different ways to prevent HIV, and to choose the one that is most suitable to you.
“I think the GMI model is completely innovative and continues to be very successful. Our clients love the friendly and professional service, with our highly skilled practitioners, giving the right information to people, who often do not have clear ideas about sexual health.”
“I think that the GMI method should be adapted worldwide, people like to be able to get a test while they are out for an evening, or on a night out dancing, without the hassle of having to book and to go to a sexual health clinic, it means all our sessions are walk in.”
GMI also offers awareness training to other organisations about this outreach model. If you would like training at your organisation or would like to be a volunteer, please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org If you want to find out more about GMI and where to get tested please see our website: gmipartnership.org.uk or follow us on twitter.