We caught up with METRO Charity’s José Mejía to find out how you can still get support across their sexual health, community, mental health, youth and HIV services.
So, José, what do you do at METRO?
I’m the HIV Peer Support Manager, looking after all of our group and peer support services for people living with HIV.
We know that coronavirus has changed how a lot of services are running, how have things changed at METRO?
Since the end of March, we have moved all of our services online or over the phone. You can still access support for all of the same things, but instead of coming to see us in Vauxhall, Woolwich, Gillingham, Surrey, West Sussex or Essex, we can help over the phone or in an individual or group video call – usually on Zoom.
The METRO team meet together for a ZOOM call.
Remind us what services METRO offers?
So, we have a lot of services that people might find useful, for LGBTQ+ people we have HIV peer support groups, youth groups, sexual health advice, hate crime support, groups for people affected by prostate cancer, and we offer counselling and mental health support. Also, if you need condoms or an STI test kit in the post, we can help with that too, and for free. As well as services in English we have some exciting HIV projects and services that are run in Spanish, Portuguese and Polish. You can check out our website to find out more about what we run in your area metrocharity.org.uk/services.
What’s new at METRO?
Last week was National Hate Crime Awareness Week, and we launched our new Croydon LGBTQ+ hate crime support service, expanding on our support available in Greenwich and Lewisham.
We have also started to provide our Get it service for all young people in Wandsworth, Merton and Richmond, offering free condoms and STI tests. This service is also available in Kent and Medway. Gay and bi men and trans people of any age can also get free condoms and STI testing kits through the post from our Pitstop PLUS service in Greenwich and Medway.
Also, our Mental Health Drop-in for LGBTQ+ people across London will soon we providing support in Bengali.
Coronavirus and the various levels of lockdown and social distancing have really been impacting on people, so we have increased our capacity in providing advice and advocacy and in our mental health support, especially for younger LGBTQ+ people finding it really difficult spending more time at home with families that aren’t always supportive of their identity.
Anything you need help with?
We are always looking for volunteers to help deliver our vital work, you can find the latest volunteering opportunities on our website.
Right now, we are also looking for people over 45 living in Essex, Kent, Medway or Sussex to take part in a survey about sexual health services as part of our European SHIFT project. Interviews take up to an hour and you get a £50 voucher for taking part. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
It’s great to hear how you are still supporting people. Do you have anything that might lift our ‘COVID-blues’?
Well we’ve been exploring our Black heritage as a charity as part of our Black History Month celebrations, take a look on our Twitter.
Also, we are celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the Equality Act coming into law this month, by launching a new Equalities Podcast series – watch out for that on your favourite podcast app!
You might also like to check our guide on how to be kind to yourself during the pandemic – just tap in ‘kind to yourself’ in the news section of our website.
If you would like to make a donation to support METRO’s work visit metrocharity.org.uk/donate.
In the top photo José was posing for METRO’s #HablemosDeSexo (Let’s Talk About Sex) campaign.