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Discussion, collaboration & social justice: Looking forward to Sex, Drugs & Scotland’s Health

October is an exciting month for those working across the sector in sexual and reproductive health and blood borne viruses as it marks the start of the Sex, Drugs & Scotland’s Health Virtual Conference 2021, which will take place between the 19th October and 21st October.

The conference is being co-hosted by us – the Scottish Interdisciplinary Research in Sexual Health (IReSH) Network – and HIV Scotland, and has been organised in collaboration with third sector, clinical and community partners, including Terrence Higgins Trust Scotland, Waverley Care, Scottish Drugs Forum, the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health Scotland, NHS Lothian and the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The conference is happening at an important time as Scotland moves into what has been described as a period of COVID recovery, and plans are set out to ‘reset and rebuild’ sexual health and blood borne virus services across the country. We see the conference as a timely intervention that will support a cross-sector, interdisciplinary space to support the development of the renewed Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Framework. We also hope that this conference can help highlight and support the revisions to the Sexual Health Standards due to be issued by Health Improvement Scotland in early 2022. The IReSH network is keen to promote and advance an intersectional and holistic approach to revising these key policies and service standards, and facilitate discussion about how to advance this work with colleagues across the sector in the coming months. In particular, we see the conference as way to energise conversations around, and take forward, work that seeks to respond to structural barriers to sexual and reproductive justice in Scotland.

The Sex, Drugs & Scotland’s Health Conference offers the opportunity for researchers, health practitioners, third sector and community organisations to come together to explore challenges around sexual health and blood borne viruses in Scotland, and work that seeks to address these. It’s going to be an exciting and energising space in which to engage with those working in this diverse interdisciplinary area. The three-day event aims to:

  • share research findings and examples of good practice
  • facilitate discussion and engagement with key issues
  • reflect on the developments made over the past 10 years, since the launch of the Scottish Government’s Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Framework
  • identify and respond to current and future challenges
  • develop and support collaborative partnerships to address contemporary health challenges

IReSH members have been working incredibly hard alongside the other conference organisers to put together an exciting programme that helps showcase the range and diversity of work that is happening across Scotland, and developing creative ways to engage virtually. The conference programme brings together a mix of presentations, panels and roundtable discussions that focus on research findings, reflections on service delivery, and facilitated discussion on critical issues in sexual and reproductive health and social justice. We encourage you to explore the programme to see the range and diversity of topics being addressed, including:

  • Work with key communities, including people who use drugs, trans communities, gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men, African communities and sex workers
  • Community outreach in sexual health and harm reduction
  • Roundtable discussions on trans health, race, racism and prejudice in sexual health, migration and asylum, drug deaths, chemsex, and consent
  • HIV prevention and testing, including PrEP, self-testing and service provision
  • Abortion access and care
  • Sexual health wellbeing and inequalities across multiple communities
  • Hep C eradication and prevention

The work of members of the IReSH network is showcased across the conference, so look out for (among others!) presentations, panels and workshops with Ingrid Young (Conference Co-Chair), Sally Brown and Nicola Boydell (IReSH co-chairs), Julie Riddell, Ruth Lewis and Jamie Frankis. Look out too for a visual timeline of HIV in Scotland, drawing on material from the Lothian Health Services Archive and being developed by the Centre for Biomedicine Self and Society.

The conference also offers the opportunity to visit virtual exhibition stalls – including our IReSH exhibition stall – that highlights work being undertaken by community organisations and academic institutions across Scotland.  As part of our virtual exhibition space we are keen to hear your thoughts on activities and events that you would like IReSH to take forward in the coming months, and your views on what would make it easier for you to be involved in IReSH. Look out for links to our interactive ideas board to share your thoughts on this! In the meantime, if you haven’t already signed up, we would encourage you to join the network.

If you know of people that haven’t yet heard about the conference, it’s not too late to register for the conference so do pass on the link. We are so looking forward to spending time with you during the conference – see you there!