Yes, embarking on your new life as a student is an exciting, perhaps daunting prospect, but there are a few things to keep in mind when going out to make sure you keep safe. For one, ensuring your sexual health is paramount. While some STIs – chlamydia, gonorrhoea and genital warts – can respond well to treatment, the risks of unprotected sex cannot be overstated, especially when it comes to HIV. HIV contraction and prevention are often surrounded by myth and misunderstanding, but quite simply HIV is preventable with safe-sex practices such as using a condom or dental dam as well as lubricant. Don’t be frightened, but don’t be complacent: no one is impervious to the virus. For those in the Glasgow & Clyde region, visit freecondomsglasgowandclyde.org to find a venue near you that stocks free condoms. Universities and colleges often supply free condoms and lube, as well as gay-friendly clubs and bars.
There are excellent facilities that cater to LGBT+ people in need of sexual health services throughout Glasgow. For example, The Steve Retson Project is a specialist sexual health service for gay and bisexual men or men who have sex with men, located in Sandyford Place. They offer rapid HIV testing with results in 60 seconds, PEP (Post-exposure prophylaxis for sexual exposure to HIV) and hepatitis vaccinations, which is a vital precaution of which many MSM are unaware. Just as importantly, the centre provides emotional health services that are supportive, non-judgmental and sensitive to your needs. Plus you can make an appointment without consulting your GP first.
Furthermore, the Sappho Service within the Sandyford provides care for lesbians and bisexual women, offering cervical screenings, STD testing and treatment and safe-sex advice. The clinic also offers support regarding fertility, period problems and counselling relevant to any important issues you may be facing. LGBT+ people living in Edinburgh can access a wealth of services available to the LGBT+ community through organisations such as LGBT Health and Wellbeing. It is essential to be in complete control of your sexual health, and regular health screenings allow you to enjoy life to the fullest and be the best version of yourself.
And of course, the pressures of beginning your new life as a student can take a toll on your mental health; moving out, starting university and coming out can be overwhelming experiences, and you may need someone to talk to. But remember that help is always at hand, and you can reach out to the LGBT Helpline Scotland number on 0300 123 2523, while your on-campus organisations are an invaluable resource to ensure you keep your head above water.
And a few final tips: on a night out, have your wits about you. Always have a local taxi number in your phone, don’t leave your drink unattended,update your friends if you leave the group and tell them where you’re heading, and remember that consent is non-negotiable.
And drink water between drinks. Trust and believe, you’ll thank us the next day.
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