Hooking up during Covid-19 – what you need to know

While EMH is a sex-positive organisation and we encourage men to enjoy their sex life, we currently recommend abstaining from hookups and casual sex to avoid getting and spreading coronavirus. 

As frustrating as it may be, we have to find other safer ways to achieve sexual pleasure and satisfaction to protect our lives and that of our loved ones. It’s time to stay at home, avoid close contact with people outside our household and to be creative about how we manage our sex lives.

Here are answers to a few questions you may have about sex and hooking-up during the time of coronavirus:

  • Can the coronavirus be passed on through sex?

Yes. The virus is spread through the saliva, mucus and breath of infected people, so kissing and close physical contact is very risky. There are concerns that the virus may be transmitted via faeces so anal play, such as rimming, is not suggested. Scientists have also found the coronavirus in the semen of some infected men, although it’s not clear how transmittable this is.

  • Who is it safe to have sex with?

Remember that people can be infected with the coronavirus and may not show any symptoms but can still pass it on.

Do not be tempted to include other individuals from outside of your home in your sex life during this crisis. It’s strongly recommended that you don’t hook up with strangers or multiple partners at all. At the very least, have as few partners as possible. 

Sex with someone with whom you are sharing a home and are self-isolating with is one of the less risky options. But if you or the other person do not feel well or have been in contact with someone who has Covid-19, definitely don’t take the risk and skip getting intimate.

  • What is the safest form of sex?

The safest kind of sex you can have – as always – is with yourself – i.e. good old masturbation! Take all the time you need to pleasure yourself to let off your sexual steam. This is where the amazing power of the internet comes into play. You can visit free adult sites to get an eyeful of sexual stimulation. You can also use hook-up apps, sites or video services like Zoom to chat with other people to get yourselves off – just not in the same room!

If you do hookup in person, both of you can use a mask to cover your nose and mouth during sex and avoid kissing or any close face to face contact. Perhaps masturbate together, keeping some distance between you while wearing masks. Yeah, it’s kinda kinky!

Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Washing up before and after sex is important and use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

NB: If you are using video calls or sharing pictures to have fun with someone online, take great care that the footage and photos don’t get misused to blackmail or embarrass you. The rule of thumb is to never include your face in any sexually explicit images or video that you appear in.

  • Should I still be taking PrEP?

If you are still hooking up or having casual sex (despite recommendations not to), then do continue to use (or get onto) PrEP to avoid HIV infection. However, if you are not having sex at all and are adhering to lockdown and social distancing rules, then you may choose to stop PrEP for now. It’s safe to stop PrEP as long as you keep taking it for two days after you last had sex.

If you are on PrEP for a very specific reason, such as living with an HIV positive sexual partner or are not sure if your partner is faithful, you may choose to keep taking PrEP.

Remember that once you’re ready to start using PrEP again, you must take the daily dose for seven consecutive days before it will protect you from HIV (ie. don’t have unprotected sex during those seven days).

  • HIV positive? Don’t stop taking your ARVs 

If you are HIV positive, do keep taking your ARVs (or get onto them if you are not currently on treatment). Being on ARVs will not only keep you healthy and reduce your risk of passing on HIV to others but will also help keep your immune system strong – very important during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • What if I need to get tested for HIV or an STI?

Our sexual health services are available as always but there are strict protocols at our facilities in place to protect you and our staff. We suggest that you make an appointment in advance. We have a “no mask, no service” policy, so don’t forget to wear it for your appointment.

To book at one of our facilities or for more information contact our national call centre number on 082 607 1686 to link you to a service in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Buffalo City or Nelson Mandela Bay.

If you are concerned that you have coronavirus and/or have any symptoms rather do not visit us and call the national coronavirus hotline for further advice and support: 0800 029 999.

To stay up to date on coronavirus news, developments and symptoms, save the official coronavirus WhatsApp service number on your phone: 060 012 3456. Send “hi” to the number and follow the prompts. You can also visit the SA government’s coronavirus website here.

Article sources: Terrence Higgins Trust / NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

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APPLY FOR: MEDICINE DELIVERY DRIVER – MELVILLE, JOHANNESBURG

POSITION: MEDICINE DELIVERY DRIVER
OFFICE: MELVILLE, JOHANNESBURG
CLOSING DATE: 20 JANUARY 2021

Engage Men’s Health provides free and confidential health services to Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) in Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City Metros. Engage Men’s Health wishes to appoint a suitably qualified individual to serve as the Medicine Delivery Driver in Johannesburg.

Key job purpose
The medicine delivery driver is responsible for transporting medication and medical supplies to all Engage Mens Health clients

Key duties and responsibilities:

  1. Inspect the delivery scooter for any maintenance needs including tyres, brake pads and report any mechanical issues.
  2. Maintaining a clean and organized scooter and having then washed weekly.
  3. Daily ensure that the scooter is filled with fuel daily and is parked in the company premises after use.
  4. Sign in and sign out scooter keys daily from Reception.
  5. Ensure that all medicine is safely and correctly packed in the scooter according to SOPs and unpacked on return to the office.
  6. Driving to designated locations, unloading, and/or loading medicines and obtaining a signature to confirm delivery of their medicines.
  7. Liaising with Peer Navigation and the DIC for medication packages.
  8. Follow a roster of delivery of prescription items to clients for ART/PrEP, and other PHC medication.
  9. Maintenance of accurate delivery logs, delivery locations may include client’s homes, outreach etc.
  10. Assist with loading and unloading medicines aligned with medicine storage and pharmacy good practice requirements.
  11. Maintain the scooter logbook and update daily.
  12. Assist with the development of a daily schedule of drop – offs and collections.
  13. Reviewing lists of deliveries before and after delivery to ensure that lists record outcomes.
  14. Ensuring compliance with paperwork for delivered items preparing reports and other documents relating to deliveries.

Qualifications and requirements

  1. Matric, Grade 12, a valid professional driver’s license for a scooter and South African ID
  2. Proven working experience as a Medicine Delivery Driver
  3. Good driving record with no traffic violations
  4. Excellent customer service skills
  5. Excellent time management skills
  6. Good knowledge of all 7 regions of the City of Johannesburg
  7. Punctual and possess excellent attendance habits.
  8. Candidates must be older than 25 years of age.

Engage Men’s Health reserves the right not to make this appointment.

Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted for the interviews.

Please only submit 3 pages (max) CV, certified copies matric certificate, South African ID and valid professional driver’s license for a scooter.

Applications can be submitted to the Melville Office Administrator or to recruitment@engagemenshealth.org.za by 20 January 2021.

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Happy Holidays!

Engage Men’s Health and all our services are closed for the festive season until Monday 4 January 2021.

EMH and our staff wish you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season and a healthy, safe and prosperous New Year ahead.

Should you have an emergency, such as needing urgent PEP, please go to your local clinic or Dischem pharmacy.

If you need urgent counselling while we are closed, please contact LifeLine’s 24 Hour Counseling Line on 011 422 4242 / 0861 322 322 or the South African Depression and Anxiety Group’s Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567.

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OUT’s Engage Men’s Health project wins Feather Award

We are humbled! OUT’s Engage Men’s Health project was honoured with a Feather Award for Best LGBTIQ Initiative – Private Sector on Wednesday 11 November.

EMH was recognised for the “inspiring” work that we do in providing free and accessible services to the MSM community.

The annual Feather Awards, which hosted its 12th event this year, celebrates and honours LGBTIQ and allied achievers, entertainers and activists.

Dawie Nel, the Director of OUT, accepted the award on behalf of the organisation at a glamorous awards ceremony at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg.

We congratulate and thank OUT and EMH staff around the country for their commitment to our goal of attaining an HIV-free, inclusive and healthy world.

Congratulations also to our colleagues, EMH Office Manager Antoinett (Vaivi) Swartz and Moude Maodi-Swartz, OUT’s Paralegal and Human Resources Officer, who were named Cutest Couple of the Year. The lovebirds made us proud!

The Engage Men’s Health project, operated by OUT LGBT Well-being and funded by USAID and PEPFAR through FHI 360 Epic, was launched in 2019. It includes a clinic in Melville, Johannesburg and mobile outreach services in the Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City metros.

In October 2020, OUT’s TEN81 clinic and outreach services in Tshwane – funded by the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and CDC through the Aurum Institute – also joined the Engage Men’s Health family.

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Pretoria’s TEN81 clinic joins Engage Men’s Health family

From the 1st of October 2020, the groundbreaking TEN81 clinic in Hatfield, Tshwane will be renamed Engage Men’s Health Pretoria.

Managed by OUT LGBT Well-being, the free clinic was the first in the city to specifically serve the sexual health and well-being needs of gay, bisexual and other MSM (men who have sex with men).

The renaming of the clinic and its community outreach services follows a recent move to larger and more comfortable premises in nearby Colbyn. Engage Men’s Health Pretoria will continue to offer the same professional, friendly and affirming services at no cost to its clients in Tshwane. These include:

• HIV testing
• Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART)
• Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
• HIV management (CD4 and viral load)
• Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) screenings
• Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)
• Tuberculosis (TB) screenings
• General medical, sexual health and safer sex consultations

Engage Men’s Health, which is also a project of OUT LGBT Well-being, already offers similar services in Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City.

“We are very proud to become part of the Engage Men’s Health family,” says Operational Director Johan Meyer. “It makes sense to consolidate our services under a single brand that has a wider footprint in both Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.”

Engage Men’s Health Pretoria is located at 1310 Stanza Bopape Street, Colbyn. Operating hours are Monday to Friday, 08h30 to 16h00, and Saturday, 09h00 to 13h00.

For more information or to make an appointment:
• Call 012 430 3272 or call/WhatsApp 066 190 5812
• Find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/EngageMensHealthPretoria

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Why Men Feel Uncomfortable Being Tested For STIs

Many people find the idea of a sexual health check awkward or embarrassing. After all, it’s not every day someone you barely know asks you intimate details about your sex life or asks to examine your Lana and Hazel. On that point, let me start by spilling the T on one of my own experiences.

I came out and hit the gay scene in Cape Town in the late 90s. Those were FABulous days – anyone who experienced the heydays of Bronx and the party scene of the time can Gayle about it for days. So the floodgates were ripped open and Patsy was the word of the day … and Gurhl, did we PATsy!

While everyone could Gil about what happened at the club on the weekend or who hooked up with whom at the sauna after the club, there was hardly ever talk about STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) or the sexual health issues we were facing at the time. It was only recently after a hilarious phone call with a friend that I realised that we both had a similar experience.

Anyways … It was a few days after an epic New Year’s Patsy when I started to develop an itchy Hazel. Have you ever seen a dog drag its Hazel on the ground because it’s itching so much? Well, this was worse! I was way too embarrassed to speak to friends about it, let alone a doctor, so with the limited resources available to me at the time I did some research and was convinced that I had anal warts – shock horror!

So I Miena Minaj to a pharmacy on the other side of the city and pick up a product that looked like nail polish in a little opaque bottle and smelt vile. I finally pluck up the courage and apply the self-medicated concoction on my Hazel in a very awkward position, but I was not prepared for the fires of hell that descended upon me. To spare you the gory details, I managed to end up on a doughnut cushion for two weeks. Try explaining THAT! It turns out that I had contracted a strain of HPV which is one of the most common STIs and that was (eventually) very easily treated.

How different thing would have been if I were more open and honest with the friends for life that I still have from those crazy days, or if I just swallowed my pride and went to see a doctor or health care worker. One of the biggest life changes I have made since this experience is to find a doctor that I am comfortable with.

You need to find a health care professional or service that works for you in order to have an open and honest relationship. For me, this has led to much more comfortable conversations and consultations about things that I may never have asked or spoken about previously. It has also made me a much better informed and calmer person when it comes to my sexual health.

Being comfortable with your health care service provider is half the battle won. There have been many intimate situations that I have had to deal with since, but knowing that I could access a professional judgement-free zone made it so much easier. It is also easier to really listen, I mean PROPERLY listen to sound medical advice from someone you trust instead of Dr Google.

I now take my sexual health a lot more seriously, and regular STI testing has become much easier for me to handle both emotionally and psychologically. I have opened up about things that I may never have spoken to friends and family about and it has been for the absolute best.

Many men today still avoid getting checked out even if they know that something is wrong. The later you leave an STI to be checked, the more things can escalate, and self-medicating is, well, from my own experience, not advised!

Jonathan Swart is a contributing writer for Engage Men’s Health. Engage Men’s Health offers free and confidential sexual health services to gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in the Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City metros – with no judgment. Services include free HIV and other STI testing and treatment and free PrEP, which prevents HIV. Call or WhatsApp us on 082 607 1686.

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Shop & swipe at Woolies to support OUT & Engage Men’s Health

Now you can support OUT LGBT Well-being and our Engage Men’s Health project through the Woolworths MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet card initiative. It’s easy and won’t cost you a cent!

If you already have a MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet card, please add OUT LGBT Well-being as one of your beneficiaries by using the form here: https://bit.ly/2VQF0zu (or by updating your beneficiaries online here: https://www.myschool.co.za/supporter/update.)

If you are a Woolworths shopper but haven’t yet signed up, you can use the same form to apply. Please fill out and sign the form (making OUT LGBT Well-being your beneficiary) and email it to cs@myschool.co.za.

Once you’ve completed and sent the form you don’t have to do anything else! Every time you shop at Woolworths, they will donate a portion of your spend to OUT at NO COST to you.

Why do we need your help?

OUT LGBT Well-being is the second oldest LGBT community group in South Africa. While we are funded to provide a range of HIV, sexual health and hate crime-related services, some of our operating costs are not covered by funders. We also aim to broaden our activities to offer additional services for much-needed challenges facing the MSM and LGBT communities, such as improving our psychosocial / counselling support. OUT runs the TEN81 clinic in Pretoria and the Engage Men’s Health services in Joburg, and the Eastern Cape, all of which are free.

You can download the application form here: https://bit.ly/2VQF0zu.

Please make sure that “OUT LGBT Well-being” is listed as the beneficiary and please email the completed form to cs@myschool.co.za. Thank you for your support!

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Pride with Purpose

On 27 June 2020 we saw the first digitally streamed Global Pride celebration hosted by queer star Todrick Hall to close off Pride Month. Many people commented that they were disappointed that it wasn’t enough of a party. It’s clear that many members of our community don’t know, or have forgotten what Pride is actually about, so we want to share the love and bring the family up to speed.

International Pride Month commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Riots, a series of incidents in New York City that launched the gay liberation movement of the 70s and 80s — and forged a path for LGBTIQ+ acceptance.

Today, the rainbow and the rainbow flag have become the universal symbol for the LGBTIQ+ community. Rainbows are perceived as somewhat magical but they are a very natural phenomenon.

It is a symbol of hope as rainbows are often seen after a rainstorm when the sun breaks through the clouds. The rainbow is also a symbol of unity as the colours are always seen together in harmony.

The rainbow flag further has connections with Judy Garland, a favourite figure of the gay community who sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in “The Wizard of Oz.”

And while there are many, many, many versions of the Pride flag — there’s a bisexual flag, pansexual flag, asexual flag, intersex flag, transgender flag, and gender-fluid flag, to name a few, the most commonly-seen Pride flag features six colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.

It’s often said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. As South Africans, we are very aware of our problematic political past and how we are still fighting to truly become that elusive rainbow nation we speak so much of.

The LGBTIQ+ community and how we engage with each other has changed dramatically with the rise of the digital age and because we tend to have more rights than before, we forget about the people who fought to get us here.

That’s why it’s important to brush up on the rich history of Stonewall, and the transgender activists behind it — like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera — as well as LGBTIQ+ terms that’ll help you support and uplift the queer community in an educated fashion.

The Pride flag was initially created by the late artist and activist Gilbert Baker in 1978 following the election of Harvey Milk, the first-ever gay American to be elected to office as San Francisco city supervisor in California. “We needed something to express our joy, our beauty, our power. And the rainbow did that,” Baker told CNN in 2015.

The colours of the flag stand for diversity, inclusivity, life, healing, sunlight, nature, harmony and spirit.

More recent versions of the flag feature additional black, brown, light blue, pink, and white stripes to include marginalised people of colour and transgender individuals.

The Pride flag of South Africa is a symbol that aims to reflect the freedom and diversity of the South African nation and build pride in being an LGBTIQ+ South African. Designed by Eugene Brockman, the flag is a hybrid of the LGBTIQ+ rainbow flag and the South African national flag launched in 1994 after the end of the apartheid era.

The purposes of the flag include celebrating legal same-sex marriage in South Africa and addressing issues such as discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, corrective rape crimes and to raise awareness of violent crimes that are still perpetuated on the LGBTIQ+community.

By teaching young people about the importance of every colour of the rainbow, we can encourage awareness, kindness, and acceptance for all.

We have come so far but we still have far to go. It’s easy to forget that though South Africans have rights and are protected under our Constitution in theory, this not always a reality in daily life. In many countries on our continent, LGBTIQ+ people are also often denied the most basic of rights.

While COVID-19 has become the new normal we can still find Pride in our achievements, celebrate how far we have come, and speak out against continued injustice. Know your rights, be aware of our queer history, protect yourself from COVID-19 and HIV and look after your sexual health. Don’t forget that we are stronger together and that your community needs you.

Engage with Engage Men’s Health about free sexual health services. We offer free and confidential sexual health services to gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in the Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City metros – with no judgment. Services include free HIV and other STI testing and treatment and free PrEP which prevents HIV. Call or WhatsApp us on 082 607 1686.

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Sex: Lowdown or Lockdown?

South Africa is under stricter lockdown regulations again to slow the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, hooking up is directly affected by the extended Level 3 lockdown restrictions. By travelling around after the stipulated curfew you risk getting arrested. Until such time it is less risky to venture out at night we will need to reduce casual sex and hookups to keep ourselves and others safe from COVID-19. 

While EMH is a sex-positive organisation and we encourage men to enjoy their sex life, we currently recommend abstaining from casual sex to avoid getting and spreading coronavirus. It’s about protecting your general health and that of those around you (including the most vulnerable in our society) from a virus that can be deadly and could devastate our health system and economy.

While sex is an important part of life, right now we have to find other ways to achieve sexual pleasure and satisfaction. It’s time to stay at home, stop close contact with people outside our household and to be creative about how we manage our sex lives.

Here are a few sex-related questions you may have during the time of coronavirus:

  • Can the coronavirus be passed on through sex?

It is important to remember that the virus is spread through saliva and mucus, so kissing is a very high-risk method of transmission. There are also concerns that the virus may be transmitted via faeces so anal play, such as rimming, may be risky. Latest scientific findings have shown that the coronavirus has been found in the semen of some men who got the virus but it’s not yet clear what this means.

  • It is safe to have sex?

Don’t believe that you are safe just because someone looks healthy. Remember that people can be infected with the coronavirus and may not show any symptoms but can still pass it on. Sex with someone with whom you are sharing a home and are self-isolating is one of the safer options; you are already living close to each other.

Do not be tempted to bring any other individuals from outside of your home into your sex life during this crisis. It’s strongly recommended that you don’t hook up with strangers or multiple partners.

  • What other ways can I have sex?

The safest kind of sex you can have – as always – is with yourself – i.e. good old masturbation! Take all the time you need to pleasure yourself to let off your sexual steam. This is where the amazing power of the internet comes into play. You can visit free adult sites to get an eyeful of sexual stimulation. You can also use hook-up apps or sites to chat with other people to get yourselves off, but just not in the same room! If you are using video or sharing pictures to have fun with someone online, take great care that the footage and photos don’t get misused to blackmail or embarrass you. The rule of thumb is to never include your face in any sexually explicit images or video that you appear in.

  • Should I still be taking PrEP?

If you are still hooking up or having casual sex (despite recommendations not to), then continue to use (or get onto) PrEP to avoid HIV infection. However, if you are not having sex and are adhering to lockdown and social distancing rules, then you may choose to stop PrEP for now. It’s safe to stop PrEP as long as you keep taking it for two days after you last had sex. If you are on PrEP for a very specific reason, such as living with an HIV positive sexual partner, you should keep taking PrEP.

Remember that once you’re ready to start using PrEP again, you must take the daily dose for seven consecutive days before it will protect you from HIV (ie. don’t have unprotected sex during those seven days).

  • HIV positive? Don’t stop taking your ARVs 

If you are HIV positive, do keep taking your ARVs (or get onto them if you are not currently on treatment). Being on ARVs will not only keep you healthy and reduce your risk of passing on HIV to others but will also help boost your immune system – very important during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • What if I need to get tested for HIV or an STI?

Our sexual health services are available as always but there are strict protocols at our facilities in place to protect not only our staff and healthcare workers but also you. It is crucial to book an appointment in advance. We have a “no mask, no service” policy, so don’t forget to wear it for your appointment. To book at one of our facilities or for more information contact our national call centre number on 082 607 1686 to link you to a service in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Buffalo City or Nelson Mandela Bay.

If you are concerned that you have coronavirus and/or have any symptoms, call the national coronavirus hotline for further advice and support: 0800 029 999.

To stay up to date on coronavirus news, developments and symptoms, save the official coronavirus WhatsApp service number on your phone: 060 012 3456. Send “hi” to the number and follow the prompts. You can also visit the SA government’s coronavirus website here.

Article sources: Terrence Higgins Trust / NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

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Vital HIV services for MSM continue in Joburg and Pretoria during lockdown

Two specialised health clinics for men who have sex with men (MSM) will continue to provide free life-saving HIV services, despite the national coronavirus lockdown.

Gay, bisexual and other MSM are among the most vulnerable to HIV infection in South Africa. They are also likely to face stigma and discrimination at mainstream clinics when it comes to their sexual health.

All services and treatment at Engage Men’s Health (EMH) in Melville, Johannesburg and OUT’s TEN81 clinic in Hatfield, are free and will continue during the lockdown (for new and existing clients):
• ART (HIV treatment / medication)
• PrEP (the daily pill that prevents HIV)
• PEP (medication for emergency exposure to HIV)

“HIV will not be on lockdown during this crisis so it is important to ensure that those who need treatment, prevention and support continue to receive it,” says Executive Director Dawie Nel.

He points out that individuals who are HIV positive and are not on treatment and / or have weakened immune systems may be at higher risk of more severe coronavirus symptoms. “If you are HIV positive or suspect you may be HIV positive, now is the time to get tested, and get on and stay on treatment, which could help save your life,” explains Nel.

In addition to HIV services, TEN81 will also provide limited phone and Skype counselling to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) and MSM individuals dealing with urgent matters or crises.

The LGBT and MSM communities face numerous psychosocial challenges due to living in a heteronormative and biased society. These are likely to be heightened during a stressful period like the one we are now experiencing, so it is important that we continue to provide as much support and care as possible,” says Johan Meyer, Operational Director at OUT LGBT Well-being.

The following measures have been put in place by the clinics to protect both clients and staff from spreading the coronavirus:

• Visits and collections STRICTLY by appointment only. No walk-ins will be allowed
• No physical contact during consultations unless necessary
• Only one client allowed in the clinic at any time. Anyone waiting outside must maintain a safe distance from one another
• Surfaces will be wiped down with disinfectant regularly and staff will wear gloves and masks
• Staff will work on a rotation basis

For more information or to make an appointment, please call:
• EMH clinic in Melville, Johannesburg
  010 500 0934
  www.engagemenshealth.org.za 
• OUT’s TEN81 clinic in Hatfield, Pretoria
   012 430 3272 / 066 190 5812
   www.out.org.za

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