Keeping it in the room: health, happiness and living in Berlin
A sexual health clinic in south London has become the first in the UK to provide safety kits for men taking part in the growing trend of ‘slamming’. Slamming is where men who have sex with men inject themselves with drugs such as crystal meth and even legal highs, and it often takes place at parties where more than one sexual partner is shared. Southwark’s Burrell Street clinic is giving out the kits free of charge, containing clean, colour-coded needles, as well as offering counselling and support services to men taking part in this activity.
Since the launch of the packs in December 2013, Burrell Street, which is the only sexual health centre in London to open seven days a week, has given out more than 120 kits.
Critics have already called on the NHS to ban the kits, saying that they encourage irresponsible and illegal drug abuse. But Robert Palmer, lead advisor and specialist psychotherapist at Burrell Street, replied: ‘We are trying to encourage gay men to look after themselves, and if they are injecting, to do it safely.
‘The colour-coded needles mean that each user can easily see which is theirs, reducing the chance of using someone else’s. They also include syringes for the use of GBL, another drug popular at chemsex parties, to reduce the possibility of overdose by allowing users to know how much they’re taking.’
Palmer hopes that by offering the kits for collection from Burrell Street, men will also use their other sexual health and counselling services at the same time.
A recent report by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that men are suffering serious harm and are in danger of spreading HIV by having unprotected sex with other men while under the influence of illegal drugs.
Professor Jane Anderson, HIV and sexual health lead at Public Health England, praised the slam packs initiative, adding: ‘We know some men who have sex with men are using new drugs in ways that are putting them at risk of HIV and other serious infections. Although chemsex is limited to relatively small numbers of people, it’s something we are taking seriously.
‘Burrell Street is setting a great example by providing service users with the right health promotion and harm reduction information. The new ‘slamming kits’ reflect the innovative thinking needed here.’
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