MSM Project by Waverley Care
Waverley Care established the MSM (men who have sex with men) Project to help expand their learning and knowledge of the role of alcohol in the lives of MSM.
This was a new area of work for the organisation and hoped to inform awareness-raising, education and information services as well as delivering brief interventions to encourage meant to reflect on their behaviours and make changes in their patterns of alcohol use.
Overall the project would help to ensure safety and reduce harmful risk-taking behaviours amongst the MSM community.
The project involved five areas of activity:
- Self Management Service
- Alcohol Brief Intervention (ABI) Service
- Peer-to-Peer Research
- Partnership Work
The initial funding helped Waverley Care in their learning of the MSM project. The peer research and surveys conducted in the first year highlighted drinking among the MSM community remained a significant issue, with 78% of men surveyed (56 in total) highlighted they drink more than 5 units of alcohol on a typical night out. 42% also classed their relationship to alcohol as negative and alcohol has a negative impact on their sexual health due to poor choices while under the influence of alcohol.
"This funding has helped us explore the connections between alcohol misuse and harmful sexual behaviours in the GBMSM community and encourage creative approaches and new ways of engaging individuals and groups. The interventions and resources we have developed with this funding will have a long-term, positive impact on our community."
Matt Middler, Fundraising Manager, Waverley Care
This evidenced the need and demand for the project to continue and a further grant of £24,580 was secured in June 2019 from SWAF to upscale the delivery to a national programme across Scotland, including NHS Forth Valley and the Highland Regions of Elgin and Argyll and Bute.
To achieve this, Waverley Care delivered a national awareness raising campaign to targeted beneficiaries in rural communities. The key difference in delivery from year one of the funding was the location, with Waverley Care promoting alcohol harm and associated risks in the rural communities of Forth Valley, Elgin in the North East, and Campbeltown and the Firth and Forth lower Islands, within the Argyll and Bute region. MSM often face additional barriers to accessing health and information services due to factors such as stigma. In rural areas it was found many fear identifying themselves as gay or bisexual, and are disadvantaged simply having to travel a long way to access specialist sexual health and support services.
Another new element was the inclusion of videos, podcasts, and blogs for campaigning and awareness raising as they were found to be an effective way to capture people’s attention at events, across social media and website pages. Despite the challenges of the pandemic in the last quarter of year two it reported 2,915 men benefited from the activities delivered.
Marc is a gay man in his early 20s, who grew up outside of the UK. He works short, but well paid, contract jobs. Recently he found out his partner was having sexual partners outside the relationship without Marc’s consent. He had been struggling to form friendships, and his partner used negative and condescending language about Marc’s appearance. Marc’s consistent drinking was having a negative impact on his employment and his self-esteem. Marc had noted to get through the day, he would start drinking straight after work and stop whenever he passed out. Paired with the emotional and mental abuse from his partner, Marc felt he was ‘spiralling’ and wanted to know how to get out of this situation but was unsure what the first steps to take were. To boost his confidence, he started to chat to guys through social-sexual apps such as Squirt. It was through this app Marc contacted SX to talk about sexual health risk and access support. At his first meeting with SX, they began by making sure Marc was safe and not at risk of violence from his partner and provided him with HIV and syphilis test as he had never tested before. The next step was to undertake a brief alcohol intervention to establish the scale of Marc’s use. Marc was very open to discussing the issues that drove him to increase his alcohol use. Over several sessions, they worked with Marc to reduce his drinking and take up activities such as exercise through which he could meet new people and improve his wellbeing. During this period, they discussed Marc’s relationship and helped build his confidence to be more independent from his partner. Marc was able to leave his partner and move into a flat share. Since this move, he has reported his alcohol use is more focused around enjoyment than necessity. He drinks two or three days a week with his new flatmates or people from his running club. Although Marc has an increased sense of self-esteem, more body confidence and is now forming new friendships he still notes doubt and anxiety impact his ability to interact with other men he has a sexual interest in. SX will continue to work with Marc, to build his confidence in talking to other men and improve his sexual health knowledge. Fortunately, Marc has remained employed during the pandemic and has continued his physical exercise and managed to reduce his alcohol intake further.
The Future of the MSM Project
Waverley Care have come to better understand the unique inequalities MSM face in relation to alcohol harm. Going forward it will continue to facilitate opportunities for community members and organisations to learn and engage on the specific topic of alcohol harm. This will include but not limited to bar outreach, resources, training opportunities, community engagement events and social media campaigns.