EMH lockdown clinic services in Johannesburg

We’re still here! The Engage Men’s Health clinic at 27 Boxes in Melville will continue to provide selected vital services during the national lockdown period. Please note the below details.

* The clinic is open Mon – Fri throughout the lockdown

* Hours are 8.30 – 16:30

* There are no Saturday services during this time.

* Services on offer: PrEP, ARV and PEP initiation/collections.

* No physical contact during consultations, unless absolutely necessary.

* If required, clients will be verbally assisted to administer a simple HIV self-screening test.

* If the result is positive, the nurse will administer a confirmation test and provide ARV treatment.

* Only one client allowed in the clinic at any time.

* Visits/collections STRICTLY by appointment only. No drop-ins.

* Appointments to be made by calling 010 500 0934 / 060 985 6008

* The 27 Boxes centre will be closed so when arriving for your appointment, please use the 3rd Avenue entrance. On arrival at the entrance, call 010 500 0934 and the receptionist will collect you.

* After the consultation, the receptionist will escort you back to the 27 Boxes exit.

We wish you safety and good health during this period.

The EMH team

PLEASE NOTE:

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

To stay up to date on coronavirus news, developments and symptoms please save the official coronavirus WhatsApp service number on your phone: 060 012 3456. Send “hi” to the number and follow the prompts.

We also urge you to visit the official SA government (data free) coronavirus resource website at https://coronavirus.datafree.co/.

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Engage Men’s Health statement on the coronavirus crisis

As we face the threat of the coronavirus in South Africa and across the world, the well-being of Engage Men’s Health’s clients, staff members and community is of critical importance. We would, therefore, like to inform you of what steps we are taking to reduce the risk of infection while maintaining our services.

1. We will continue to provide our usual HIV and sexual health services for now, although we will be limiting the scale of services.

2. The coronavirus may have a more severe impact on those with weaker immune systems. Anyone who is HIV positive who is not on treatment may be at higher risk. We recommend that they contact us or another health provider to get onto free ARV treatment. If you are on ARV treatment already, please stay on it and ensure you have adequate stock. We urge those in our communities who do not know their HIV status to get tested.

3. We will be limiting the number of staff in the field and at our clinic/offices. We are working to ensure that we are equipped with alcohol-based sanitiser and masks as needed.

4. We will ensure that only one client at a time will wait in our clinic/office reception area. Other clients are asked to remain outside until it is their turn.

5. We will not be accepting walk-in clients during this time and request that clients please call us to make an appointment before coming to our clinic or office. For those collecting medication, please make sure that you have pre-arranged this telephonically.

6. Where possible, our office-based staff will be asked to work from home and/or on a rational basis. This is to reduce the number of staff in the office at any time and will limit their contact with others, such as when using public transport.

7. We will do our utmost to accommodate staff with children who need day-care in the wake of school closures by allowing them to work from home wherever possible.

8. Our clinic and services are not equipped to assist patients who may be sick with coronavirus. If you are concerned that you have coronavirus or have had contact with anyone who may have been exposed, we urge you to rather stay at home and self-quarantine. We will, however, accommodate clients who need to collect their HIV medication as long as they first call or Whatsapp / message us on 082 607 1686 to arrange collection.

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

10. To stay up to date on coronavirus news, developments and symptoms please save the official coronavirus WhatsApp service number on your phone: 060 012 3456. Send “hi” to the number and follow the prompts.

11. We urge everyone to avoid unnecessarily travelling, socialising and congregating with other people. Wash your hands for 20 seconds regularly and after every interaction with other people, public spaces and surfaces. Use hand sanitiser when and if possible. Also, practice social distancing of at least one metre, and avoid touching your face.

12. If you have any questions about our services or wish to make an appointment, please call or Whatsapp / message us on 082 607 1686.

We believe that by working together, staying aware of developments via official and reputable news sources, and following recommended practices, we can overcome this crisis and limit the spread of coronavirus. Wishing you and your loved ones the best of health.

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Keenan: Single, sexually active and on PrEP

As a single and sexually active guy in his twenties who’s still interested in meeting up with other guys, it’s gratifying for me to be a regular PrEP user. It reduces my risk of contracting HIV, allows me to enjoy the pleasure of sex and also to make my sexual partner feel comfortable.

I was introduced to PrEP in 2018 when a guy I was with asked if I’d like to have unprotected sex because he’s on PrEP. I declined because I wasn’t sure if he was being truthful. I was curious, so I enquired, did some research and found Engage Men’s Health clinic in Melville.
I made an appointment, not knowing what to expect and was very nervous. The staff was very inviting and warm. I got my blood taken, got tested and then the sister explained all the benefits of taking the little blue pill. I haven’t looked back since.

I’m very passionate about sex education amongst the MSM community, especially young men who don’t enquire more about safer ways to engage in sexual activity. For the most part, I think social media can be a powerful tool to drive more people to take care of themselves. In today’s society, people spend most of their time on social media that’s where they make friends and find love too.

I feel dating/hookup apps could do more to push for PrEP to be more visible. I like to disclose that I am on PrEP if I’m on a dating site. I’m open about my sexual health and expect someone interested in me or my profile to reciprocate. It’s also a good conversation starter if someone sees I’m on PrEP and doesn’t quite know much about it.

I like to assure people that PrEP is a preventative measure, that it is as easy as taking a pill a day and had almost no side effects. I also inform them that it doesn’t mean you’re HIV positive if you use it, but it’s an additional method of preventing HIV if you are negative. Studies have confirmed a decline in HIV transmission among those who use the magic blue pill.

The key to getting men to utilise this drug is putting the message out there and informing them that it works. Honestly, it’s very hot to meet a guy who cares about himself and his sexual partner(s) and self-care is on the rise amongst all men.

Try to find a connection with your partner or partners and encourage them to be on PrEP too and enjoy ultimate pleasure with a lot less risk.

I still choose to use condoms because I enjoy safe sex and they protect me from other STIs (sexually transmitted infections). For me, PrEP works as an additional preventative method. I haven’t encountered any bad experiences with PrEP. This is a FREE drug that is accessible with guaranteed results – and I’m living proof.

PrEP has been scientifically proven to be over 99% effective at preventing HIV infection. For free PrEP and other sexual health services contact EMH in Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay or Buffalo City on 082 6071686 by either calling or sending a WhatsApp message to make an appointment. For more PrEP information click here

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Buya uzo cheka impilo!

Buya uzo cheka impilo” means “Come back to check your life/health”. This message is vital because many guys find out that they are HIV positive but never go on treatment or do start but stop at some point.

Fact: A lot of people prefer not to know their HIV status rather than having it confirmed.
Fact: Most people who get an HIV test are nervous about getting the result.
Fact: Many who receive an HIV positive diagnosis may be scared to go onto ARV treatment.
Fact: Some people fear what others will think if they’re seen getting ARVs from a clinic.
Fact: People sometimes stop taking their ARVs because they don’t feel sick or because they find it’s a challenge to take time off work or to get to a clinic.

Fear and lack of knowledge are often behind these facts. The truth is that if you are positive and the sooner you go onto treatment, the sooner the ARVs will start fighting the HIV in your body. People who are HIV positive have a considerably lower risk of developing Aids or other serious illnesses if they start taking antiretroviral drugs sooner rather than later. Being HIV positive and not on ARVs puts you at a higher risk of getting other STIs and developing more severe symptoms. The longer you wait, the longer it will take to get the HIV under control once you eventually go onto ARVs.

Modern ARVs have very few side effects and can lower HIV so that tests can’t pick it up. This is called “undetectable” and means that the chances of you passing HIV on to someone else is 0%.

The benefits of staying on ARVs are clear. Nothing, especially not fear, should stand in your way of living a full life.

HIV testing and ARVs are available for free at our EMH services in Johannesburg, Buffalo City and Nelson Mandela Bay. Please WhatsApp call or message us on 082 607 1686 to book an appointment. 

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I’m now a PrEP convert

I’m Rudy Bessit, a gay 36-year-old Johannesburg actor and writer. I first heard about PrEP two years ago and I started asking around about how (and if) it works. Some of what I heard seemed alarming; someone told me that my kidneys would be affected and the fact that I’d have to take a pill every day felt like too much of a commitment.

I later met people who were on PrEP and enquired some more, but I still wasn’t convinced to start using it. After all, how legit could this be; medication for HIV negative people that actually prevent HIV infection?

Then, while browsing Facebook one day, I saw an ad from Engage Men’s Health with a WhatsApp number. I decided to message and get more info. The person on the other end was very friendly, informative, and that made me comfortable enough to visit the Engage clinic in Johannesburg.

The clinic is situated within an easy-to-find establishment in Melville. It’s clean, modern and felt welcoming. The staff are very friendly, funny and professional at the same time.

Being a freelance actor, I didn’t make an appointment because my days are unpredictable. However, I was still received and treated kindly. I cracked jokes and laughed with the staff throughout my visit.

Once the staff explained to me what I’d be tested for, how PrEP works and how they would monitor my kidneys, I was finally comfortable to start taking the pills.

See, your kidneys can be affected by any medication – not just PrEP. That’s why blood is drawn at the clinic. It’s to check the state of your kidneys before going on the pills. The healthcare worker will check your kidney function every few months to ensure that the medication does not affect these organs negatively. For most people with healthy kidneys, there should be no problem.

They also explained how PrEP arms the white blood cells to prevent HIV-infection, and this got me to understand the legitimacy of the pill. It’s been repeatedly proven to be more than 99% effective if you take it daily.

So why did I think PrEP was for me? I know from experience that one can never be sure how faithful your partner is, or how responsible they are if they did end up sleeping with someone else. You may think you are safe from HIV by having just one partner, but you may be wrong.

Another reason why I felt that PrEP is a good idea is the fact that I can now assist strangers when they’re injured and bleeding without fearing to come into contact with their blood. I’d have far more confidence and courage to get involved.

I started PrEP in September and got a one month supply. For the first three days or so after I started, I felt sleepy and my stomach was looser than usual. By day five, everything was back to normal and I’ve not had any other side effects since then. I returned to the Engage clinic after the first month. I got a three-month supply which is convenient because I won’t have to return to the clinic every single month. And it’s all free!

As a single guy on the dating scene, PrEP has given me real peace of mind that I am protected from HIV. I’ve realised that it is well worth the commitment of taking a pill every day. So call me a convert; I’m now a happy PrEP user!

PrEP has been scientifically proven to be over 99% effective at preventing HIV infection. For free PrEP and other sexual health services contact EMH in Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay or Buffalo City on 082 6071686 by either calling or WhatsApp message to set up an appointment. For more PrEP information click here

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Bottoms Up

Let’s face it, being a bottom in the bedroom is not always easy. It not only can take a little more effort and preparation but we don’t always get the respect we deserve.

Your sexual position, role and personal turn-ons are nothing to ever be ashamed of. We say, enough of bottom shaming and booty stigma!

So, in honour of all the bottoms out there, here are some handy tips to help make your sex life easier, safer and hotter than ever:

  • First things first: To have anal sex (and enjoy it), you and your top partner need to take things slow. Take your time, breath and try to relax before you get jiggy with it.
  • While the anus and rectum do not usually store faeces (poo), there may be remnants left behind. Before having sex, have a shower or bath and gently clean yourself with your fingers and warm water and soap.
  • You may want to start with some foreplay, such as letting your partner finger you using plenty of water-based lube as you relax.
  • Unlike a vagina, the anus is not naturally lubricated. It’s for this reason that it is important to use lots of water-based lube when having anal sex. Lube makes the anus smooth and slippery so that a penis can enter it more comfortably. Lube makes sex more enjoyable and also prevents condoms from tearing. Use lots of it!
  • If you feel pain at any point, ask him to stop and be still for a little while he’s inside of you, and then let him try move again. If you’re not enjoying it, ask your partner to stop. You can try again later. It may take several attempts for you to feel comfortable.
  • When you’re having sex, you may feel like you want to go to the toilet. This is natural. In time your body will learn to know the difference between having anal sex and needing to go to the loo.
  • It’s important to have fun, laugh and don’t take it all too seriously. After all, it’s just sex!
  • Remember that the receptive (bottom) is at most risk of HIV infection during bareback (condomless) compared to the top partner.
  • Anal sex without lube can not only be painful but the sensitive lining of the anus is more susceptible to cuts and abrasions during sex. These cuts and internal scrapes allow for HIV that may be present in the top’s cum or pre-cum to get into contact with the bottom’s bloodstream. Using lube helps reduce and tears or cuts to the anus.
  • Using condoms and water-based lubricant is still your best defence against both HIV and STIs (sexually transmitted infections).
  • If you are a bottom who is HIV negative, you should also be using PrEP, the daily HIV prevention pill. While PrEP does not protect you from other STIs it is extremely effective against HIV, even if you do not use condoms.
  • If you are HIV positive, you need to be on ARVs and stay on your treatment. ARVs not only lower your risk of passing HIV onto your partner but also keeps you healthy.
  • Get tested for STIs and HIV every six months. Why not ask for an HIV self-testing kit, so you can test at your own convenience?

Engage Men’s Health in Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City can help keep your sex life safe and healthy. Contact us for free condoms and water-based lube as well as free HIV and STI screenings, PrEP, ARVs and HIV self-testing kits. Call or Whatsapp 082 607 1686 for more information.

 

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Are you prepped for the holidays?

It’s that time of the year again; the last rush before you can relax and spend time with your loved ones. For many, it is also party season, so we’d like to give you a few tips to get prepped for the holidays.

  • It is very tempting to drink a lot when you go out. What many guys forget is that the drink you have now will only hit you in 20 min. So that the double shooter you have five minutes after you had a drink five minutes ago, will also only hit you 20 min later. This means that in 20 min, all three drinks are going to hit you at the same time. Try to pace yourself and have non-alcoholic beverages (or water) in-between.
  • If you are on ARVs or PrEP, make sure that you have enough meds to last you over the period between Christmas and New Year. Throw the tablets onto a small side plate or on a surface where they won’t roll or fall off. Physically count your pills and work out till what date you will have enough.
  • If you need to stock up on PrEP or ARVs, contact your provider asap BEFORE they close over the holidays.
  • We know that this time of the year is crazy busy. It’s for this reason that beyond our regular open hours, Engage Men’s Health in Johannesburg (Melville) will have extended hours till 20:00 on Wednesdays and Fridays and till 17:00 on Saturdays. This is from 1 December up to 20 December. The extended hours, unfortunately, do not apply to our other two branches, but please contact Engage Men’s Health in Buffalo City (010 534 8366) and Engage Men’s Health in Nelson Mandela Bay (010 534 8428) directly to make an appointment to ensure you get your meds sorted before the holidays.
  • If you are on ARVs or PrEP, stash one of your tablets in your wallet or maybe a bag you have with you all the time. Wrap the tablet in cling wrap or in a small sealable packet. This is to prevent the tablet from getting wet or damaged. If you end up hooking up with somebody or crash at a friend’s house, then you don’t need to stress because you will have your meds with you.
  • Do the same with two condoms and two sachets of water-based lube. Just be careful where you keep the condoms so that they don’t get damaged. If you keep condoms on you for a long time, be sure to check their expiry date as the older condoms are, the more likely they may be to tear or break.
  • Another tip is to scan your ARV or PrEP script (if that’s how you get your meds) and then email it to yourself. This will help a lot If you should urgently need to get meds in an unfamiliar place. If for example your bag gets stolen, or you lose your meds, you can go to a pharmacy and show them your scanned script on your phone. Ask them if you can buy loose tablets to carry you through till your next refill when you are back at home.
  • ARVs and PrEP are super effective, but only if you take them as you should. Let’s say the time you normally take your ARVs or PrEP is 20:00. If you forget to take them at 20:00, take them the moment you remember or when you can get to your meds. Then take your meds the same as you normally would.
  • If you are HIV negative and not using PrEP, and you had high-risk exposure to HIV, you need to get PEP. High-risk exposure is for example unprotected sex with somebody you don’t know, or if a condom breaks. This needs to happen within 72 hours (3 days) after the incident. You can go to any clinic, doctor or pharmacy and say you need to get PEP and they tell you what to do.
  • If for some reason you get nauseous and throw up after you took your meds, here’s what to do. If you throw up within 1 hour after you take your meds, you need to retake them. (If you get sick after an hour, you will only have to take meds again the next time you are supposed to.)

For all your sexual health needs for the holidays, including free PrEP, ARVs, HIV self-testing kits, STI screening, condoms, and lube contact Engage Men’s Health on 082 607 1686 (remember, we are closed from 20 Dec 2019 to 6 Jan 2020.)

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EMH Festive Season LGBTQ Homeless Drive

Support your community! Please help us clothe and feed homeless LGBT individuals and MSM (men who have sex with men) over the festive season. We are aware of a group that are trying to survive on the streets in Johannesburg.

While Engage provides free sexual health services to the gay, bi and men who have sex with men (MSM) community in Joburg, we are asking you to show your love and help to make a difference where we know there is a need. Any contribution will be greatly appreciated:

• Clothes / shoes
• Toiletries
• Food (tinned or non-perishables)
• Blankets
• Bags (like sports tog bags) as they don’t have a place to put belongings

Engage Men’s Health will have a drop-off point at our clinic in Melville which is behind 27 Boxes on 3rd Ave. Beyond our regular hours, we will have extended hours from 1 to 20 December:
Mondays 8:30 – 16:30
Tuesdays 8:30 – 16:30
Wednesdays 8:30 – 20:00
Thursdays 8:30 – 16:30
Fridays 8:30 – 20:00
Saturdays 9:00 – 17:00

Here are a few sad realities that some LGBT people are faced with:
Suicide amongst the LGBT community over the Christmas period are higher than with heterosexuals, this percentage goes up quite significantly for homeless LGBT people. A disproportionate percentage of people who are homeless and living on the street are from the LGBT community.
LGBT youth are more likely to be homeless because they run away or are evicted due to family conflict surrounding their sexual orientation.
LGBT youth are more likely to be homeless due to physical or sexual abuse experienced at home.
Homeless LGBT people are more likely to be victims of crime than their heterosexual counterparts. Male LGBT youth were more often sexually victimised while homeless than non-LGBT male youth.
LGBT homeless people are more likely to engage in survival sex, or prostitution as a last resort to meet basic needs and due to lack of access to HIV and other STI prevention and treatment, the prevalence is very high.
There are virtually no LGBT housing and shelters in South Africa.

Make this festive season merry and gay! – Let’s shine a light on LGBT family members in need.
You can contact us on 011 500 0934

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This is your new selfie stick – HIV self-testing is here

HIV self-testing is big news and making a difference not only for individuals but also for being able to get a lot more people to test.

Engage Men’s Health offers free oral self-testing kits that allow you to test where and when it suits you. Simply swipe the tester stick on the inside of your mouth and you’ll get a quick update on your HIV status. (You’ll receive more detailed instruction with your kit.)

Here are some benefits in choosing self-testing and other interesting facts:

  • Self-testing is without queues or potential loss of confidentiality or privacy which a lot of people fear when going to a public testing site.
  • The test can be done by yourself, with partners or with friends. Self-testing allows for people to get their own support structures rather than relying on a stranger, like a nurse or healthcare worker. Each of you should use separate test kits and conduct the test, as indicated in the instructions provided.
  • HIV-self tests are 99% accurate but if you receive a positive result, the test must be confirmed at a health facility.
  • We request that you send us a picture of your test result (anonymously if you prefer), whether it’s positive or negative, so that we know that the kits are being used. To send us your test results, for a confirmation test, free PrEP or if you have any other questions or concerns call, message, WhatsApp or send a ‘please call me’ (office hours): 060 985 6008.
  • Seventy-seven countries have adopted HIV self-testing policies, while many others are currently developing them.
  • According to the WHO (World Health Organisation), self-testing has been shown to nearly double the frequency of HIV testing among men who have sex with men.
  • In the past, it was believed that if people didn’t get counselling if they tested positive, it could potentially increase their risk of unmanaged anxiety and the potential for suicide. Pre- and post-test counselling was very important years ago when there was very little to offer patients who tested positive. These days we know how effective ARV treatment is and HIV is seen as a manageable chronic condition and is no longer a life sentence.” The test includes helpline numbers for people to get support if necessary.
  • Self-testing kits checks for the antibodies that your body makes to fight HIV. There is a window period of between six weeks to three months after infection before the body starts to produce these antibodies. Therefore it is important to test regularly.
  • The chances are very slim but not impossible that a test can give a positive result but then give a negative result when tested again. This can happen for all sorts of reasons and is known as a false positive test result. This is why it is so important you get your positive result confirmed by a healthcare worker or doctor who will retest you using a different type of test.
  • It is recommended that if you have one sex partner to test yearly. If you have multiple partners, you should check every three months/or 12 weeks to make sure you know your status.
  • What should I do if I test positive? Don’t panic! Contact us for a confirmation test. If your result is confirmed, we’ll supply you with free ARV medicine to keep you healthy, the HIV under control and your partners safe.
  • What should I do it I test negative? Great news! To stay negative, we recommend you start taking PrEP, the daily HIV prevention pill from Engage Men’s Health. It’s free, easy and very effective, even without the use of condoms!

Get your FREE HIV self-testing kit for yourself (and your partner, too) from our clinic at 27 Boxes in Melville, Johannesburg (call 010 500 0934), our outreach teams in Joburg, Nelson Mandela Bay (call 010 534 8428) and Buffalo City (call 010 534 8366) or at selected venues in these metros.

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Shine On: Dreya’s story

When I was around 12 or 13, we started getting educated on HIV in school. That’s also when something clicked that I had relatives who must’ve been HIV positive, including my mom. It’s also what she passed away from and it’s not something I shy away from. It happened. It’s life. I am not ashamed of what she died. She was a lovely person and a beautiful woman. Back then it wasn’t as it is now. Today, it’s something that can be treated and ARVs are much better.

I was around 18 but still in high school when I wrote a story. I created my own characters and I centred the story around an orphan who lost his parents to HIV. Back then this wasn’t a cliché but it was a reality. Through this story, I got noticed. I think people were touched by it and that was how I started volunteering at HIV organisations and I did it wholeheartedly.

It was in rural areas, mostly taking food from sponsors to orphans and handing out condoms to adults. We would also go to help out with things or just be with them, sit, talk and educate around HIV. This is how I became associated with these organisations. Not knowing that later on, in my future, this knowledge was going to work to my advantage.

In my early 20s, I got sick and my body basically collapsed it was so weak. I went to consult a doctor, which was when I found out I had abdominal TB and learned about my HIV status. It was a shock but I was able to process it because of my HIV volunteer work. I knew that ARVs work and that I can live. I just had to accept the fact that, from then on, I would have to live on medication and that it is important.

It’s just one pill that you take every single day.

As an adult, I naturally gravitated towards the role of healer and a person my friends confided in about personal problems. Even before I was positive myself, I’ve always been that person that people would come to talk to about HIV and the things that go with it. I suppose my outlook on life and how I go about life as a positive person about my status also must play a role in how safe people feel or why people trust me.

I live my life unaffected by HIV. Look at me, I’m healthy. I’m fine. I can walk into a club and I can go dance, have fun, drink. I’m the life of the party! I can even take my meds when I’m in the club. Just a quick pill pop and I’m done!

I still have so many things I want to achieve. I want to counsel and teach. I want to speak, stand proudly and say “Look, this is who I am. I’m living. I’m happy. This hasn’t taken away anything from me. I’m still the same person. I still speak the same. I still dress the same. I still go out the same.” The greatest thing I want to do is settle down with a partner and go travel together.

For guys who recently found out about their status, I want to say that HIV is not a death sentence. It actually isn’t that bad as long as you take your ARVs regularly and stay on them. It’s just one pill that you take every single day. And that’s it…

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