Harm Reduction and Health Promotion; a Bathhouse Three way!

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The AIDS Calgary HEAT Worker, in partnership with The Texas Lounge and Goliath’s Saunatelmanagement and staff and the Alberta Health SAFEWORKS team,  work together to provide HIV/STI and hepatitis C testing and other health services, supports and referrals to Calgary and area Gay and MSM through an onsite outreach testing and health service in the bathhouse every Friday evening between 4:00 – 6:00 pm.

I have noted over the last couple of years an increasing number of men coming in for testing, connecting with workers with questions and checking in with workers at this location recognizing  the professionals providing the services are of value, respectful and culturally competent to provide clear non-judgmental services to Calgary and area Gay and MSM.  

This did not happen overnight, in fact it took a full year of building  trust and understandings between ourselves the workers and the men who were accessing Goliath’s to recognize that we were not the sex police and harpers of safer sex only messaging. In fact we are about informed choices and understanding of the risks associated with certain behaviours between Gay and MSM that place them at higher risk for HIV and other STIs.

A bath house is known as a “safe” place where men can meet other men for mutual pleasure, relaxation and conversation and provides Gay/MSM with a place to meet other likeminded men. As such the bath house makes for a perfect point of care site to offer HIV/STI testing services that are otherwise offered at the STI clinic or through a family physician.

Many have commented their appreciation for having the service available on site and wonder why it is not offered more often at the bath house. The reality is money and resources currently do not allow for the expansion of this program however we are doing our best to address this gap and need  through the addition of a regular Wednesday clinic on the main floor of the Sheldon Chumir Health Centre between 1:00 and 3:00 pm specifically for anyone with a history of addiction, homelessness, involved in sex work, street youth and Gay/MSM.

For those of you who may not already know this, the AlbertaHarm Reduction Conference will be hosted in Calgary at The Coast Calgary Plaza Hotel May 22-23. 2013.

AIDS Calgary, as one of the partner organizations for the Alberta Harm Reduction Conference has encouraged staff to submit abstracts on programs and services we offer that highlight our commitment to harm reduction and health promotion.

HEAT & SAFEWORKS will be presenting an abstract on this partnership entitled “Three Way in the Bathhouse”.

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