A fantastic new service in Cornwall - Guest blogger Kelvin Leighton-Julian

SHOCT Kernow is a new HIV and sexual health information venture in Cornwall. Started in March this year by Kelvin Leighton-Julian, SHOCT Kernow aims to improve access to HIV and sexual health information and services to the community in Cornwall. Whilst SHOCT Kernow aims to provide this service to all, its speciality and primary focus is around the LGBTQ community, specifically gay men.

Why was SHOCT Kernow set up?

Simple, people have sex……phew, there I said it! It’s unbelievable, but true. Sex should great, it should be fun and someone should be able to be fully informed before they have it. However, people are still putting themselves, unknowingly, at risk of HIV and STIs (sexually transmitted infections). Some are doing so because they don’t have the knowledge to be able to protect themselves properly, some don’t have a true understanding of the implications that poor sexual health can have on their wellbeing or self esteem and others are embarrassed to make that first contact with a sexual health service or clinic.

Late diagnosis of HIV in people in Cornwall is well above the national average but overall positivity rates are well below the average. This means that out of those few people who are testing positive a high number are doing so late. This means that they have been living with HIV unknowingly for some time and have only presented to a clinic because they now of symptoms that relate to a low immune system. During this time they may very well have infected other people without knowing.

SHOCT Kernow wants to empower people, through learning, to think positively (excuse the pun) about their sexual health. In turn they can then protect themselves, protect others and empower others to do the same. It’s all about #PayingItForward.

It’s not just about the individuals though. Often there are opportunities for services and their staff to provide someone with information which could empower their service users but due to a lack of training it remains a missed opportunity. SHOCT Kernow wants to embody a culture of peer education within Cornwall allowing appropriate HIV and sexual health information to cascade freely down to the service user so no-one is denied access to the knowledge or service that they are entitled to.

You can find out more about SHOCT and the work it does at: https://shoctkernow.wixsite.com

FreeBird looks forward to working with Kelvin very soon - watch this space!!