SX - More Pleasure, Less Harm
SX is our national service for gay, bisexual and all men who have sex with men. Meet the team and find out about their work across Scotland.
Meet the Team
SX is our national service for gay, bisexual and all men who have sex with men.
First established in 2016, the team is made up of Amanda, Rory, Alastair, Chris and Scott – together, they work across Scotland improving the sex, health and wellbeing of gay and bisexual men, and all men who have sex with men, including trans men.
The team’s ethos is sex-positive, and their focus is always on improving the physical, sexual and mental health and wellbeing of all men who have sex with men.
Through listening to people from LGBT+ communities, and empowering them to have their voices heard, our SX team provide support to those we work with, encouraging them to have consensual and pleasurable sex with the least harm.
Wondering why our SX team are reaching out to gay, bisexual and men who have sex men? Here are some of the health inequalities they face:
- HIV continues to disproportionately affect particular groups in society. Almost half of all people living with HIV in Scotland are gay, bisexual men or other men who have sex with men.
- More than half of gay and bisexual men will experience some form of mental ill-health in their lives, such as anxiety and depression. At the same time, the community experiences higher rates of suicidal thoughts.
- Gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men are disproportionately affected by poor sexual health, experiencing higher rates of STIs.
- Gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men are more likely to use alcohol, tobacco and drugs, and experience harm because of their use.
What do SX do?
Our SX team do lots of different kinds of work across Scotland. From testing and training to outreach and support. But what does that mean for their day to day work? Here are some examples of what the team gets up to:
The team regularly go to colleges, LGBT+ venues and other support services across Scotland, offering rapid HIV tests and syphilis tests. The team do this as a way to encourage people to get tested in places that are accessible to them, as well as smashing testing related stigma. By going to lots of different venues, the team help people know their HIV and syphilis status, supporting them to get treatment where needed or letting them know how to keep themselves safe from HIV or STI infection.
Over the course of six months the team have carried out 104 tests, as well as distributing 37,460 condoms and 19,810 lubes across Scotland.
“Testing is one of the best prevention tools we have. Men at risk of HIV and other STIs play a key role in helping reduce the levels of infection in our community, this is because these conditions are treatable. And in the case of HIV, someone who is on HIV treatment and taking it as instructed by a doctor will become undetectable - meaning they want pass the virus on through sex. This is known as U=U.“ – Alastair, SX Team
Amanda, Rory, Alastair, Chris and Scott each provide one to one support to gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men in Edinburgh, Forth Valley and Highland. They provide support to men with lots of issues, from how to prevent HIV infection and doing chemsex safely to better managing mental health and changing their relationship with alcohol and drugs.
“Our people have often experience discrimination and stigma when accessing services because of perception about their behaviour. We are in a privileged position to provide confidential support through our one to one service, we do it first and foremost as peers using lived experience to help those accessing service to feel that they are not alone and work with them to build confidence and resilience dealing with what’s going on in their life. We support men in a whole range of ways, whether it's helping improve their confidence and emotional wellbeing, dealing with problems around drug use and alcohol and, fundamentally to improve the sex they have and reduce stigma associated with our lives and peers.“ – Alastair, SX Team
For men who have been at risk of HIV, the team help them get access to PrEP and PEP in local sexual health clinics. For those living with HIV, the team help them manage HIV treatment, learn about U=U as well as connecting them up with peer support.
“[I] recommended [SX] to my mates who are either in a similar situation to me, or more importantly struggling much more be it physically or psychologically and emotionally with this issue.” - James, 33
Over a six month period, the team have carried out over 200 one to one support appointments with gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men across Scotland.
Our SX team carry out two main kinds of outreach: digital and rural. When it comes to digital, Amanda, Rory, Alastair, Chris and Scott each have health-focused conversations with men who have sex with men through apps – giving them up to date information about how to take care of their sexual health and answering any questions they have about HIV and STI testing. This is an important way of communicating health information to men online, when they are already thinking about sex. Over a six month period, the team have carried out 110 interventions through apps.
“Our work online may seem unconventional to some. Today this the predominantly where men meet other men for sex. We work closely with the app providers to get good quality information across to men, and are on hand to provide support when needed.” – Alastair, SX Team
In rural areas, the team go to public sex environments, dropping off condoms and lube. The team’s work is non-judgmental, so though their outreach they’re making sure gay, bisexual and all men who have sex with men can have sex they want with the most pleasure and least harm, wherever they are.
Exploring health through art:
Our SX team’s ethos is sex-positive, and the team get creative in finding ways to make thinking about and taking care of health and wellbeing interesting. Often, the team do this by empowering gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men to lead sessions exploring different aspects of their health and wellbeing, as well as issues that affect the community.
“It was great to get involved in making art in a safe and friendly environment. It was good for talking to other men and working together; learning from each other.” Gordon, 28
Check out an example of the team’s health and art sessions here, where they hosted a Cyanotype workshop as a way to have conversations about sexual health.
Thinking outside the box:
Sexual health matters can be taboo for lots of people. Our SX team think outside the box to find ways of smashing sexual health stigma while raising awareness of HIV in LGBT+ communities.
For example, the team held a group work session with Crew helping explore the relationship between online sex environments, alcohol, drugs, consensual sex and transactional sex. As part of the session, the team invited a person with lived experience of sex work to facilitate an informal community conversation about transactional sex in a safe supportive environment. Talking about all kinds of sex is an important way of smashing stigma, and those who came along found the session helped them learn about transactional sex, as well feeling less alone with insecurities they experienced about sex.
“There is so much sex that still freaks me out, but it was positive for me to see how confidently a sex worker can talk about it”. - Em, 31
To see more of the team’s work, read their blog on a community conversation hosted about ‘HIV – Past, Present and Future’ here.
Want to know more?
Our SX team are making talking about and taking care of sexual health a part of everyday life. Check out our SX website for lots of great information about health and wellbeing - tailored for gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men. The team have also developed a handy risk tool, helping you find out about the risks associated with different types of sex. Check out the risk tool here.
Before you go...
Waverley Care relies on the generosity of our supporters to make what we do possible. Please consider making a donation today to ensure we can continue reaching out across Scotland to individuals, families and communities who need support with HIV, hepatitis C and sexual health.