Everyone is welcome to attend open events that we hold monthly.
Do you have something you would like to share with the Forum?
Would you like to add something to our site?
Have some community news?
Contact us at:
Merton LGBT+ Forum
Please note as we are a volunteer run non profit organisation therefore this email is only checked once a week.
Merton’s LGBT+ Forum was relaunched earlier in 2015 and aims to be the voice of local LGBT+ people.
As we develop, we have decided to focus on a number of key areas first, of which Health and Wellbeing is one of the most important. A new project has been formed (which is open to anyone to join who wants to contribute in this work to) to address this.
This project has agreed on 4 main priorities:
Firstly to provide information about issues that relate to our health and wellbeing and services and advice available to assist with this. Much of this can be found within this section of our website but we also plan on producing some paper resources to inform local residents of both our work and this website.
To open dialogue with local commissioning and other responsible authorities so that our health needs are known about, promoted and properly resourced in what we all acknowledge are difficult funding conditions. We hope to promote the importance of working with other pan-London providers and voluntary organisations to maximise best use of available resources.
To provide an authoritative and supportive voice from within our own community to health and well-being issues across the whole borough. We will achieve this by joining other representative bodies that provide oversight, advice and engagement.
Welcome to the Health and Well-Being section of our website. This will always be a work in progress and our aim is not to be the font of all knowledge but to provide you with easy links to specialist information, groups, services and organisations who can provide you online with the information that you need.
We welcome all suggestions and comment! Please send these to email@example.com and put ‘Health’ in the subject line: thank you.
All of us have different needs but one thing that unites this is our entitlement to the best health and well-being so that we and those we love may live happy, productive lives. It matters not how you identify yourself as a person or sexually nor whether you are ‘out’ or not about who you are.
Many of us – at one time or another – have lived with an issue that we have been unsure or even embarrassed about. In this country and day, no one should feel that they have to do this. There is always support and information available; sometimes it may not be easy to find this but we hope this simple guide on Health and Wellbeing will assist you with this.
Health and Wellbeing
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org (putting ‘Health’ in the subject line) if you have any questions for which you cannot find an answer. We take particular care over confidentiality and no one will ever know that you have done so without your specific permission.
Similarly, please contact us if you would like more information about the Forum and joing the Health & Well-being project. We meet in the evening every 3 months but also engage in other activities within the Forum including a number of social events.
We can also provide impartial and confidential advice should you wish to complain about anything relating to local health services.
It is important to understand that this is your right and can be done without any concern that this may reflect on you or future provision of health services.
In fact, this is one of the ways by which you can help influence how services are provided and developed.
Merton Area Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)
The NHS provides a useful summary to most aspects of LGBT+ peoples’ health on their main website. Here you can learn about the specific health issues that can affect you, together with practical advice on how to stay in good health:
A happy sex life is part of being a happy human, regardless of one’s sexuality. However, things can and do wrong and it’s always better to get checked out quickly if you think something has.
For some people this can be both embarrassing and difficult, especially if one is not out or perhaps is in a relationship.
Therefore, many people prefer to access specialist sexual health services as opposed to see their GP’s about any health concerns. Your GP, of course, can always be relied upon to be non-judgmental and must maintain your confidentiality by law.
Your surgery will always be able to refer you to another GP of a different sex if you would prefer.
Increasingly today, these clinics will be known as ‘Sexual Health Clinics’ and some of the main ones are attached to or part of general hospitals. Some may continue to be known by their medical department names such as ‘Genitourinary Medicine’ or GUM.
The important thing to understand is that whoever you see, this will always be done in the strictest of confidentiality and anonymity can also be maintained fully.
For a good guide on all aspects of sexual diseases and conditions look here:
Even if you don’t have any symptoms (ie nothing appears wrong), if you are sexually active then it’s always good to have a regular check-up – say every 6 months. Any of the clinics in this guide will be happy to provide this.
In the Merton area, our main hospitals actually lie in 2 different boroughs:
St George’s Hospital, Tooting (in Wandsworth) whose GUM department is known as the Courtyard Clinic https://www.stgeorges.nhs.uk/service/sexual-health/gum/
And St Helier’s Hospital, Carshalton (in Sutton). Their GUM department does not have a special name but guarantees full confidentiality https://www.epsom-sthelier.nhs.uk/genito-urinary-medicine
Local Sexual Health Clinics in Merton and Sutton
Green Wrythe Lane – The Circle Clinic (Carshalton): http://www.swagnet.nhs.uk/clinics/sh/green.html
Patrick Doody Clinic (Wimbledon): http://www.swagnet.nhs.uk/clinics/sh/patric.html
Jubilee Health Clinic West (Wallington): http://www.swagnet.nhs.uk/clinics/sh/jubilee.html
Wide Way Clinic (Mitcham): http://www.swagnet.nhs.uk/clinics/sh/wide.html
Other sexual health clinics in London
Some people prefer to access sexual health clinics outside where they live or, perhaps, closer to where they work. You do not have to live in any particular area to access the services of any of these. All can be relied upon to maintain your confidentiality and, if you would prefer, anonymity.
For a list of various other gay men’s clinics see here:
Most of these welcome people of all sexual identities.
56 Dean Street
If you want to avoid a hospital or overtly medical setting then try 56 Dean Street in central London (in the heart of Soho) http://www.chelwest.nhs.uk/services/hiv-sexual-health/clinics/56-dean-street
Dean Street Express
To be found at 34 Dean Street in Soho, this is another sexual health clinic that provides a pre-booking service which
you can book from 7pm the night before.
It’s best suited to those who are symptom-free (ie haven't noticed anything wrong) and don’t need treatment or who just
want a routine sexual health check up.
HIV (the Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a lentivirus that causes HIV infection and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (known as AIDS).
Anyone can acquire it, normally through a bodily fluid (eg blood, semen or vaginal secretions) being transferred from an infected person. It’s not as easy to catch as people sometimes think but there are certain high-risk activities including unprotected sexual intercourse, especially anal. Condoms are highly effective at preventing transmission. The risk when not using a condom decreases significantly if the viral load of the infected person is suppressed by Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART).
It’s for this reason that testing and knowing one’s HIV status is so important. If you have become infected then the sooner you know and ART can be prescribed, the less the damage that can occur to your immune system.
HIV is still not something that one should be blasé about: it’s not something that you really want to have to live with for the rest of your life.
There is no cure.
However, early testing and, if necessary, treatment should ensure that it is fully manageable and that you can continue to live as long and as healthily as you would have otherwise.
It most certainly is no longer the early ‘death sentence’ that many considered it back in the early days of the epidemic, in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
There are a large number of organisations that provide information about all aspect of HIV and AIDS and have good websites. These include
Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) http://www.tht.org.uk/
National AIDS Trust (NAT) http://www.nat.org.uk/
National AIDS Manual (NAM) http://www.aidsmap.com/
HIV testing is quick and painless and most clinics today will be able to provide an instant result (at most within 15 minutes). If you have been at risk of being infected, it is always better to be sure. However, there is a period after infection during which HIV is difficult to detect. With certain new tests this period is now reduced considerably but in any instance it is best to seek advice from a clinic or other specialist health professional as soon as possible.
They will be able to advise about testing and, where necessary, the need to re-test after a set period.
If you believe that you have been at risk of being infected then there is now something that can be done about this, called PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) but it is important to take action quickly, ideally within 24 hours of the possible infection and no later than 72 hours (provide link to PEP section).
Many clinics will automatically test for HIV if they take a blood sample but will inform you of this so that you can opt out if you wish.
You may have heard of a special form of anti-HIV treatment called PEP (or Post Exposure Prophylaxis).
This is essentially the only thing that can prevent you acquiring HIV if you have been exposed to the virus.
It consists of a 4 week course of medicine but must be started as soon as possible after the exposure
(eg a case of unprotected sex with someone who you then find out is HIV positive) – ideally within 24 hours but within 72 hours if it is to have any chance of succeeding.
It is available from all Accident & Emergency Departments on a 24/7 basis but must be taken daily if it is to be successful and does have some side effects. It has been shown to be effective in most – but not all - cases.
You may also have heard about PrEP or Pre Exposure Prophylaxis.
This is a similar course of treatment that would need to be taken every day for the rest of your life or while you were sexually active and likely to engage in unprotected sex. This form of therapy is not yet available on the NHS in the United Kingdom (it is available privately but is relatively expensive).
However, sexual health professionals are increasingly of the opinion that it could play an important role in reducing HIV infection and therefore eventual halt the epidemic.
Gay men in particular who regularly use condoms to prevent acquiring HIV but who may occasionally lapse – perhaps when affected by recreational drugs when out partying – would arguably most benefit from this therapy.
If you want to pay for PrEP yourself the look here https://getprep.uk/
Some of us readily identify as gay or bisexual –and may be out of not. Other men have sex with other men but do not identify as either gay or bisexual. Some straight men occasionally have sex with other men.
It’s all part of who we are and is not something to be judged about – either by ourselves or others.
We are all normal – if sometimes different.
There are a lot of voluntary and other charitable organisations that provide information and advice for all men who fall into this category. Amongst the best known in London are:
Spectra GMP (previously known as the West London Gay Men’s Project) http://www.westlondongmp.org.uk/
Lesbian and bisexual women experience a number of health inequalities, having particular health needs that are often overlooked. In some areas, lesbians and bisexual women have poorer health outcomes compared to women in general.
Some but not all NHS hospitals and trusts make a specific commitment to address these inequalities.
In London, Guy’s and St Thomas’ provide some useful additional information and services which, while focused on the Lambeth area, is a useful starting point for more information: http://www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/resources/patient-information/all-patients/lesbian-and-bisexual-womens-health.pdf
Up to a third of us will experience mental health difficulties in our life-time. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about and, as is often the case, the first most important step in tackling such a challenge is to acknowledge that it exists in the first instance.
Trans men and women experience continuing misunderstanding, prejudice and challenges, especially in respect of their health needs. This applies particularly to those who have chosen to transition and are pre or post-operative.
Clini Q, based at 56 Dean Street in heart of Soho, provides an excellent holistic sexual health and well-being service for all trans* people, partners and friends:
Drug and Alcohol Difficulties
For some of us who drink alcohol and use drugs it can get out of hand and start to have an unwelcome effect not just on our lives but those around us too.
Merton Drug and Alcohol Recovery Team offer assesement and treatment for people with these problems.
Antidote is a discrete service, also run by London Friend, that provides information, advice and support for those whose alcohol or drug use has got out of hand: http://londonfriend.org.uk/get-support/drugsandalcohol/antidote-accessing-our-services/
Giving up smoking
A future section providing information and services locally to assist you if you want to give up smoking.
Wellbeing – feeling happy in ourselves and not just in terms of physical health – is important. Many people may live healthy lives but may be lonely or feel isolated, be in difficult or abusive relationships, be unemployed or have money difficulties.
All these things – and many others – affect our wellbeing.
The Merton LGBT+ Forum is just as committed to our wellbeing of LGBT+ people as to our health. As we develop this section of our website, we will continue to add new topics and referrals to assist with this.
Having a good social life – of meeting other LGBT+ people, either in safe and anonymous surroundings or within the more visible community, is part of living well and also ensures that. over time, we all have the opportunity to grow and meet new people.
London is lucky in having a dedicated charity providing services aimed at improving our health and mental well-being, delivered by trained LGBT+ volunteers:
Give advice and support to people who have experienced biphobia, homophobia, transphobia, sexual violence or domestic abuse. We also support lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer people who have had problems with the police or have questions about the criminal justice system
Some people do not use the ‘scene’, in respect to visible lesbian and gay bars and clubs, while others prefer to engage with the LGBT+ community in other ways. Here in London we are fortunate in having many other clubs, societies, groups and organisations that cater for a wide and diverse range of interests, hobbies activities and sports specifically for LGBT+ people. Gay golf? Gay politics? Single parent groups? It’s all out there!
An excellent guide to lesbian and gay sports clubs and social groups can be found here http://www.thegayguide.org.uk/
Local LGBT+ Social Activities
The Forum runs its own series of events and activities and more details can be found here
Unfortunately, we don’t yet have any dedicated LGBT+ bars or clubs in the Merton area (we live in hope!) but are a number in neighbouring areas and, in particular, in central London.
A good guide to some of these can be found here: http://www.thegayguide.org.uk/
Most of these are aimed at gay men but many venues increasingly welcome lesbian and trans* customers too, as do many modern straight venues. London is fast becoming a ‘metrosexual’ city ie one where one’s sexual identity is irrelevant.
We would like to thank all of those organisations who whose websites we have provided a link to. Together, we are all committed to your best health and wellbeing.