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25 Nov 2020

Supporting Victoria’s Bill to Ban Conversion Practices

Thorne Harbour Health has announced its support of the Victorian Government’s Change and Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill introduced today as it seeks to protect adults and children from harmful practices that attempt to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

The Victorian Government undertook an extensive process in the development of the bill including an inquiry, significant research and meaningful consultation with survivor-advocates. The resulting bill is of an incredibly high standard, surpassing any similar legislation developed in Australia to date.

“By passing this legislation, Victoria has a chance to lead the way globally in protecting the human rights of our sexually and gender diverse communities from incredibly harmful practices based on false and misleading claims,” said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth.

The bill seeks to establish a range of civil and criminal penalties and ban practices in formal settings (for example medical, psychology or counselling services) as well as informal settings such as religious settings. It would also prohibit advertising or promotion of paid or unpaid conversion practices as well referrals to conversation practices. If passed, the bill would also provide investigative powers to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

“Difference is not a defect. LGBTQA+ people are not ‘broken’ or ‘disordered’. It is vital that we stop so-called practitioners, whether in informal or formal settings, from performing practices that traumatise participants,” added Simon Ruth.

“This bill is informed by the lived experience of survivors of sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts, and seeks to end these practices which are harmful and grounded in unscientific claims,” says Rebecca Baxter, a steering committee member of Brave Network, a support and advocacy group for survivors of conversion practices.

The suite of changes is accompanied by a range of support initiatives for survivors, with investigations initiated into potential conversion practices to employ strategies that prevent re-traumatisation.

Thorne Harbour Health is encouraging everyone to show their support for the Government’s Change and Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill by contacting their local MP. The organisation is also inviting community members to attend their upcoming Community Briefing on Monday 30 November from 6PM.

13 Nov 2020

Over 2000 lifesaving health services for TGD Victorians

JOINT RELEASE with Your Community Health, Austin Health, Ballarat Community Health

Over 2000 appointments have been provided to trans, gender diverse and non-binary Victorians from a new model of inclusive, gender-affirming health service. November 22nd 2020 marks one year since the launch of the Victorian Trans and Gender Diverse Health Service and its two multi-disciplinary clinics based in Preston and Ballarat.

The program is improving health access and outcomes for trans, gender diverse and non-binary Victorian adults, through the delivery of state-wide, bulk billed services. The service has been able to support some of the most isolated Victorians living in regional and remote areas of Victoria by utilising a mixture telehealth and outreach clinics. Clients have also benefited from reduced wait times compared to common experiences at other clinics.

Led by Your Community Health, in partnership with Austin Health, Ballarat Community Health and Thorne Harbour Health, and funded by the Victorian Government, services include peer navigation, general practice, hormone therapy initiation, counselling, endocrinology, nursing, peer support and warm referral into broader community health services such as allied health and dental.

“Our state-wide service has seen extraordinary growth during a very challenging year with COVID-19 and we are proud of our achievements. We have supported community members with their essential health needs and also increased employment for community members in professional roles,” said Your Community Health Chief Executive Officer, Phillip Bain.

The new Victorian service has paved the way for Australia with a new model of care, integrating Peer Navigators into a medical environment.

“Our Peer Navigators are the concierge of our health service, they greet and welcome our valued clients, provide them with information, referral and support and continue to be available for follow up appointments,” said Jeremy Wiggins, Project Manager.

“This level of support is unprecedented and absolutely necessary for our communities who often experience multiple barriers in accessing quality healthcare. I often get phone calls from our clients who tell me personally that our service has literally saved their life. There is no doubt in my mind that this Victorian service is providing lifesaving health care,” Wiggins continued. The success of this model comes as a result of the hard work and determination of our trans and gender diverse community advocates and a collaborative commitment by implementing organisations to design and deliver services with the community.

The community health sector is well experienced in supporting those most at risk of health inequalities and it is hoped the success of the Victorian Trans and Gender Diverse Health Service in such a short time will lead to the securing of ongoing support for the expansion of services.

To access this service: Victorians can register online at: https://www.yourcommunityhealth.org.au/trans-and-gender-diverse-health/

12 Nov 2020

An Exciting Move Around the Corner for Bendigo’s LGBTI Communities

The new year will see a new location for Thorne Harbour Country’s Community Hub. Thorne Harbour Health is investing in Bendigo for 2021 — purchasing a new site just around the corner from its previous premises.

Following in the footsteps of the Country Awareness Network (CAN), Thorne Harbour established a Bendigo-based service focused on preventing blood-borne viruses and sexually transmitted infections as well as supporting both people living with HIV (PLHIV) and LGBTI communities in the Loddon Mallee Region in February 2016.

“After over 20 years of serving the community in Bendigo, the Country Awareness Network left some big shoes for us to fill, and I believe we’ve risen to the challenge,” said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth.

As we approach the fifth anniversary of Thorne Harbour Country, we’re excited to mark that milestone with a new site that will allow us to expand our reach and better serve the growing needs of our LGBTI communities and people living with HIV in the Loddon Mallee Region.

Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth

The new two-storey site will allow Thorne Harbour Country to re-establish the Community Hub for peer workshops, events, and service delivery. The new location on Mundy Street is just around the corner from the program’s original site and the former home of CAN.

“The Bendigo community is passionate about supporting LGBTI individuals and people living with HIV. We’ve been proud to work with the community over the years, and we’re excited to create a new space where they can be better supported and empowered to look after their ongoing health and wellbeing,” said Thorne Harbour Country Coordinator Claudia Validum.

“We hope the new site can serve as community centre for regional Victoria. After all, we know from the recent Victorian Population Health Survey that our LGBTI communities are located throughout the state,” added Simon Ruth.

The Thorne Harbour Country Community Hub is expected to open in early 2021 in time for the fifth anniversary of the program.

16 Sep 2020

Victorian Health Survey Demonstrates Significant Health Inequalities for LGBTIQ Populations

The Victorian Agency for Health Information has released survey findings outlining the issues that contribute to health inequalities faced by LGBTIQ Victorians. Thorne Harbour Health congratulates the Victorian Government on the release of these findings as a first in the state’s history, but the community-controlled health organisation hopes the stark findings lead to systemic change and greater support for LGBTIQ Victorians.

“Our LGBTIQ communities are experiencing housing and financial insecurity, mental health distress, chronic disease, and family violence at significantly higher rates when compared to non-LGBTIQ Victorians,” said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth.

“These challenges need to be met with policy changes and service developments that are inclusive and affirming of LGBTIQ Victorians.”

The expansion of the sample size from over 7,000 to over 34,000 during this survey has allowed the survey to capture statistically significant findings about the health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ Victorians including:

  • A significantly higher proportion of LGBTIQ adults had a total household income of less than $40,000 and were not able to raise $2,000 within two days in an emergency when compared to non-LGBTIQ Victorians.
  • 24.4% of LGBTIQ adults had high or very high levels of psychological distress compared to 14.5% of non-LGBTIQ adults.
  • 44.8% of LGBTIQ adults surveyed had been diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression compared to 26.7% of non-LGBTIQ adults.
  • 13.4% of LGBTIQ adults had experienced family violence compared to 5.4% of non-LGBTIQ adults.

“The findings from this survey gives the Victorian Government valuable insight into the health status of our LGBTIQ communities, and it paints a clear picture – LGBTIQ Victorians are continuing to experience health inequality and we need to take action,” said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth.

“We strongly encourage the Victorian Government to consider these findings when implementing the reforms from the recent Family Violence Royal Commission and upcoming Mental Health Royal Commission.”

The survey findings also included demographic and socioeconomic status details about the 5.7% of Victorian adults who identified as LGBTIQ. While a higher proportion of adults living in metropolitan Melbourne identified as LGBTIQ (6%), the survey showed that LGBTIQ adults are living throughout regional and rural Victoria as well.

“We’re not just based in Melbourne and this needs to be reflected in how we provide services and support to LGBTIQ Victorians living in regional and rural settings,” said Simon Ruth.

When it came to social capital, a significantly higher proportion of LGBTIQ adults were members of other community groups, were in contact with 1-4 people on the previous day, and felt multiculturalism made life better in their area.

“We envision a healthy future for our sex, sexuality and gender diverse communities, where all Victorians can live with dignity and participate fully in society. We look forward to working with the Victorian Government as we move toward that future,” Simon Ruth added.

A copy of the full report can be downloaded here: https://www.bettersafercare.vic.gov.au/reports-and-publications/vphs2017-lgbtiq

07 Sep 2020

PrEP Community Congratulates Prepped Smart & Healthy on Million Dollar Milestone

Thorne Harbour Health (formerly the Victorian AIDS Council) congratulates Prepped Smart and Healthy on contributing over $1 million towards eliminating HIV in Australia by creating greater access to cost effective Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP, a daily pill, prevents the acquisition of HIV. In just over two years, Prepped Smart and Healthy has supported thousands of individuals to access PrEP by subsidising the cost.

“Prepped Smart & Healthy is doing remarkable work in supporting people to overcome financial barriers and take control of their health and wellbeing through the use of PrEP,” said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth.

“It is through the collective action of organisations like Prepped Smart and Healthy that we’re going to see the virtual elimination of HIV across Australia.”

The program aims to reduce the cost of medication down a third of the usual cost. For example, general patients with a Medicare card can expect to pay $41 for a three-month supply as opposed to $123. For Concession card holders the cost would be reduced from $19.80 to just $6.60. Last year, Thorne Harbour Health awarded Prepped Smart & Healthy’s founder, Joseph Tesoriero, the 2019 President’s Award after the newly-established charity distributed more than $500,000 in subsidies after its first year. To date, it’s estimated that as many as 5,000 people have accessed PrEP through this program on multiple occassions.

Joseph Tesoriero is also the Proprietor of the HealthSmart Group of Pharmacies that Prepped Smart & Healthy has stemmed from.

“The purpose of Prepped Smart and Healthy is to make medications more affordable for those
marginalised communities where the high cost may prevent access. By removing the barrier of financial burden, adherence is made easier and the risk of medication failure is lowered, enabling better health outcomes,” said Tesoriero.

The milestone in HIV prevention has been applauded by advocacy groups and community organisations that have worked to gain access to this biomedical tool for HIV prevention.

PrEP access advocacy group PAN (PrEP Access Now) expressed their gratitude by saying, “On behalf of the PAN committee, we extend our most sincere thanks to Joseph and the Prepped Smart and Healthy team for this astounding achievement. The Australian PrEP community fought long and hard for affordable access to HIV preventative medication to better take charge of their sexual health. To have such profound support has undoubtedly benefited so many. This news is especially poignant as we navigate a global crisis where we have never been so cognisant of our health and wellbeing”

Founders of the online community group PrEP’D For Change added, “PrEP’D For Change commends Prepped Smart & Healthy for their dedication to supporting communities at risk of HIV and improving affordable access to this gamechanging medication beyond the subsidy made possible by the Australian Government. The significant uptake of this charitable offer is testament to PrEP user’s ongoing commitment to protecting themselves and their communities.”

15 Apr 2020

Thorne Harbour Launches COVID-19 Rainbow Connection Service

LGBTI Victorians who are isolated or impacted by COVID-19 will now be able to access additional social connection and support services through Thorne Harbour Health’s Rainbow Connection.

Launched today, the COVID-19 Rainbow Connection offers a range of services to LGBTI communities throughout Victoria including peer support and assistance with food and housing issues.

“COVID-19 has created an unprecedented social change in our community that has seen many people being isolated from usual connections and supports. Thorne Harbour Health’s Rainbow Connection program is here to fill the gap for the many LGBTI people who find themselves without adequate support or struggling with food or housing security,” said Thorne Harbour CEO Simon Ruth.

“We know that maintaining meaningful connections to community has a profoundly positive impact on people’s sense of self, feelings of anxiety/distress and general wellbeing. For this reason, and to address the challenges caused by the physical distancing measures in place, Rainbow Connection actively links isolated LGBTI people with the services and supports they need to get by during this time.”

With the support of the Victorian Government for the next three months, Thorne Harbour has been able to extended their existing Community Support program for LGBTI seniors and people living with HIV to now include any LGBTI people who are isolated or impacted by COVID-19.

“Many LGBTI people have lost jobs, are struggling financially or with their mental health as a result of COVID-19,” said Simon Ruth.

“Thorne Harbour Health continues to be there for the community with an expansion of our Rainbow Connection program that is providing support to any LGBTI person who is struggling with the impacts of COVID-19 in their lives.”

The COVID-19 Rainbow Connection is a state-wide, volunteer-driven service supporting LGBTI people across Victoria.

The COVID-19 Rainbow Connection service can be contacted 9AM – 5PM, Monday to Friday by phoning 1800 961 780 or via email rainbowconnection@thorneharbour.org.

26 Mar 2020

Thorne Harbour calls for communities to stop having casual sex during COVID-19

For the first time in its four-decade history, Thorne Harbour Health is calling on communities to stop having casual sex in the face of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Thorne Harbour Health, formerly the Victorian AIDS Council, is calling on LGBTI communities and people living with HIV to limit their risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth said, “We’re faced by an unprecedented global health crisis. While COVID-19 is not a sexually transmitted infection, the close personal contact we have when during sex poses a serious risk of COVID-19 transmission. We need people to stop having casual sex at this stage.”

“But after four decades of sexual health promotion, we know abstinence isn’t a realistic strategy for most people. We need to look at ways we can minimise risk while maintaining a healthy sex life.”

Last week, the organisation released a resource with strategies to minimise the risk of COVID-19 while having sex. Strategies included utilising sex tech, solo sexuality, and limiting your sexual activity to an exclusive sexual partner, commonly known as a ‘f*ck buddy’.

“You can reduce your risk by making your sexual network smaller. If you have a regular sexual partner, have a conversation about the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Provided both of you are limiting your risk by working from home and exercising physical distancing from others, you can greatly reduce you chance of COVID-19 transmission,” said Simon Ruth.

The organisation’s stance is not dissimilar from advice from the UK government. Earlier this week, chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries advised couples not cohabitating to consider testing their relationship by moving in together during the country’s lockdown.

Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth released a video message today addressing sex & COVID-19 following last week’s message about physical distancing.

Both videos as well as the ‘Sex, Intimacy & Coronavirus’ info sheet can be found on here.

14 Feb 2020

‘Rolled’ and ‘Stressless Sam’ voted top two films of QuitFlicks 2020

The results of the QuitFlicks 2020 short film competition are in, with Australians voting Rolled by Rosie Pavlovic (winner) and Stressless Sam by Hugh Murray (runner-up) as their two favourite films of the competition.

Announced at last night’s Melbourne Queer Film Festival (MQFF) Program Launch, both films uniquely address the issue of smoking in LGBTIQA+ communities, who experience smoking rates more than double the national average.

Set in a gritty, quintessentially-Melbourne pub, Rolled by Rosie Pavlovic (East Brunswick, Victoria) follows a young lesbian couple on a date, who uncover a good reason to ditch the smokes when an attempt to evade the bitter gaze of an ex-girlfriend leads them to experience first-hand the statistically significant finding* that smokers’ areas of pubs have the highest concentration of ex-girlfriends.

In Hugh Murray’s (Docklands, Victoria) quirky film Stressless Sam, a non-binary sock-puppet named Sam tries to quit smoking with the help and support of their friends. The attempt to quit smoking proves difficult as the stressors of Sam’s life overwhelm them. With the help and support of friends, Sam manages to beat the cravings and finally quit.

Quit Victoria Director Dr Sarah White congratulated Rosie and Hugh on their success, and all the finalists and filmmakers for using their creativity for a positive cause.

“The filmmakers took on the challenge of creating messages about smoking that resonate with the community, and they excelled. They’ve shown that it’s entirely possible to entertain and engage audiences while relaying a critical health message for the LGBTIQA+ community,” Dr White said.

MQFF Chief Executive Officer Maxwell Gratton was excited to announce that the two winning films will be screened throughout the Melbourne Queer Film Festival March 12 – 23. “Rosie and Hugh’s films will be seen by more than 30,000 community members and festival patrons. It’s wonderful to be able to support budding local filmmakers to showcase their talent but it’s also gratifying to support a cause with such benefit to the community,” Maxwell Gratton said.

Thorne Harbour Health’s Chief Executive Officer Simon Ruth spoke to the significance of the QuitFlicks project and partnership. “This project has enabled a conversation about the normalisation of smoking in LGBTI communities and how we have the power to change that to improve our ongoing health and wellbeing,” Simon Ruth said.

The other two QuitFlicks finalists were Teddy Darling (Balwyn, Victoria) with One Breath at a Time, and Millie Hayes (O’Connor, ACT) with her creation, Quit Together.

Watch all film finalists now quit.org.au/quitflicksvoting.

(*Based on anecdotal evidence only. No actual scientific rigour applied.)

30 Jan 2020

Thorne Harbour Health to set up services in the Pride Centre

Victoria’s preeminent LGBTIQ community controlled health service, Thorne Harbour Health will be delivering primary and allied health services to the LGBTIQ community from the Pride Centre in late 2020.

The Victorian Pride Centre Board Chair Jude Munro AO, alongside Minister for Equality, Martin Foley MP, presented Thorne Harbour Health’s President, Chad Hughes, CEO Simon Ruth, and Board member Janet Jukes with a key to the Pride Centre.

Thorne Harbour Health (THH) has a long and established history in delivering services to LGBTIQ communities. This commitment is set to continue with THH, signing a lease to occupy just over half of the Pride Centre’s third floor, which will include the relocation of the Centre Clinic, counselling, alcohol and drug and family violence services.

In 2020, THH will also operate from new premises in Abbotsford, growing the organisation’s footprint and reach with sites across Victoria and South Australia.

THH’s presence in the Pride Centre ensures that the health and wellbeing of LGBTIQ communities visiting the Centre will be well served.

The Centre’s design allows for discreet access to key services located throughout the building, recognising the diverse nature of service offerings and the people accessing those services. The Pride Centre’s Board recently adopted a health and community service policy.

Quotes Attributed to Minister for Equality Martin Foley

“For more than 30 years, Thorne Harbour Health has been improving the lives of LGBTIQ communities and people living with HIV - we’re proud to support them.”

“The Victorian Pride Centre would not be a reality if it was not for the groundbreaking work of organisations such as Thorne Harbour Health. Its move into the Pride Centre embeds a strong historic pillar into this iconic building.”

Quotes Attributed to Victorian Pride Centre Chair, Jude Munro AO

“The Victorian Pride Centre is pleased to be welcoming Thorne Harbour Health, formerly the Victorian AIDS Council, our community’s most respected primary and allied health service to the Pride Centre.

There is still much to be done in relation to our community’s health and well-being outcomes. THH’s presence brings great opportunities for collaboration and innovation across services.

Quotes Attributed to THH Board President, Chad Hughes

“Since our establishment as a community-controlled organisation in 1983, we have been dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing for the communities we serve. Being a part of the Victorian Pride Centre helps ensure we can continue that legacy.”

Quotes Attributed to THH CEO, Simon Ruth

“Ensuring we have appropriate health services that understand the needs of our LGBTIQ communities is paramount if we’re ever going to address the disparities in health and wellbeing outcomes. The Pride Centre offers us the perfect opportunity to connect our communities with the growing portfolio of health services we’re able to offer.”

Originally released on the Victorian Pride Centre website.

30 Jan 2020

Thorne Harbour to establish Victoria’s first LGBTI Community Volunteer Hub

Today Thorne Harbour Health has announced the establishment of a LGBTI Community Volunteer Hub to connect volunteers with opportunities to support LGBTI communities across Victoria.

Volunteers have made up the majority of the workforce at Thorne Harbour Health for its entire 37-year history. During that time, many of the organisation’s volunteers have gone on to win multiple awards including the Premier Volunteer Champions Award, GLOBE Volunteer of the Year, and the Minister for Health Volunteer Award.

The organisation currently works with over 700 trained volunteers across it programs and services. As a result, Thorne Harbour regularly receives requests for volunteer support from smaller groups and events including AIDS 2014, Better Together Conference, Australian GLTBIQ Multicultural Council, and the upcoming 2020 International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics Championships.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have been supported by countless volunteers since the day we were founded in 1983. We understand the value of volunteers, and we’re so grateful to be in a position where we can help smaller organisations that don’t have that same infrastructure,” said Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth.

“We’ve been seeking funders interest in developing this resource for the LGBTI community since 2014, but it hasn’t been until receiving a generous bequest from the Quinlan Estate that we’re now able to make that dream a reality.”

The LGBTI Community Volunteer Hub will aim to help LGBTI organisations across Victoria identify volunteer requirements, develop job specifications, match skills and expertise, and recruit volunteers accordingly. The hub will also provide a pathway for the growing number of corporate volunteers interested in opportunities to donate their time and skills.

For over 20 years, Thorne Harbour Health has been a member of Volunteering Victoria. While there are volunteer resource centres across the state, Volunteering Victoria CEO Scott Miller supports the establishment of a targeted hub for LGBTI communities.

“Connection with community is a key motivation for volunteers, and many volunteers are seeking opportunities that allow them to give back to LGBTI communities. A community-led solution like the LGBTI Volunteer Hub is a great initiative to connect volunteers with opportunities that they might otherwise struggle to find.”

Charlotte Johnson has been volunteering with Thorne Harbour for the past four years and a recent recipient of the organisation’s Special Service Award.

Volunteering has been a fantastic vehicle for me to get out there as a young trans woman and make a meaningful impact on the community I’m so proud to be a part of. I want every member of our LGBTI communities to be able to have that opportunity. It’s incredibly rewarding, but it can be a bit daunting at first if you don’t know where to look.

Charlotte Johnson, Thorne Harbour Health Volunteer

Melbourne Queer Film Festival is one of the organisations that will benefit from the LGBTI Community Volunteer Hub.

CEO Maxwell Gratton said, “We love our MQFF volunteers. The Volunteer Hub would be a fantastic resource for connecting our volunteers with additional opportunities throughout the year as well as quickly allow us to recruit new volunteers when needed.”

Thorne Harbour hopes to officially launch the hub in May 2020 in the lead up to National Volunteer Week and the organisation’s fourth annual LGBTI Organisations Volunteers Event (L.O.V.E.) in partnership with JOY 94.9, Switchboard, Transgender Victoria, and the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives.


23 Dec 2019

Thorne Harbour advises communities to take additional care with MDMA this summer

As summer gets underway, Thorne Harbour Health is advising the community to take additional care if using MDMA (also known as ecstasy). During the holidays and summer festival season, it’s not uncommon to see an increase in the use of drugs like MDMA. In the past, MDMA has been sold as pills and caps, although increasingly it is being sold in a crystal or ‘rock’ form.

Australian research is showing that it is becoming common for people to be sold high strength MDMA crystal in 1 gram and 3.5 gram bags. One gram of crystal may be the equivalent of 10 or more pills or capsules. An overdose of MDMA can be fatal. In fact, it led to six deaths last summer in NSW alone. It is important that people know what they are taking, how much they are taking, and what is a normal dose. Information about MDMA can be found on the EROWID website.

Thorne Harbour Health (THH), a provider of alcohol and other drug services to LGBTI communities, is asking people who may engage in drug use to take additional precautions to minimise the risk of potential harms.

“We know the use of MDMA in crystal form has become more common, and people need to educate themselves quickly if purchasing MDMA in this form for the first time in order to prevent accidental overdose,” said THH CEO Simon Ruth.

Dr Stephen Bright from Edith Cowan University added, “Dosing with these drugs becomes an issue. You really need scales and reagent testing to accurately know that what you’re taking and how much of it. You cannot ‘eye-ball’ a dose of MDMA.”

“MDMA also places a lot of strain on your cardiovascular system. MDMA overdose, effectively, can manifest as a heart attack. Someone using MDMA needs to be conscious of the amount of physical activity they’re undertaking whether that be excessive dancing or having sex. Any activity that could significantly increase your heart rate poses risks.”

Halving doses is one strategy being advised to mitigate these risks. When trying a new batch of a drug for the first time, by taking half, you can test the effects of the drug before deciding whether or not to take the rest of it. Taking half can also be an effective risk reduction strategy when redosing with MDMA.

“If you’re redosing, only taking half is one way to help mitigate the strain you’re putting on your cardiovascular system whilst maximising the pleasurable effects, and of course you need to stay properly hydrated,” advises Dr Bright.

While MDMA does not specifically dehydrate you, it can cause your system to overheat. When combined with the diuretic effects of alcohol and the fluid loss from physical exertion, someone taking these drugs may be at risk of dehydration. Conversely, MDMA causes the body to retain water on a cellular level, so drinking an excess of water can also cause fatal issues. In lieu of water, low-sugar electrolyte drinks are an effective alternative to properly rehydrate.

“At the end of the day, if you’re going to use these drugs, we want the community to be smart about it. Avoid alcohol, keep an eye on physical activity, try to not overheat, make sure you’re with trusted friends who can help in an emergency, and don’t hesitate to contact emergency services on ‘000’,” said Simon Ruth.

“As with all drugs, people may believe what they’re buying is MDMA, but in an unregulated market, you can never be sure of what exactly you’re taking. This is especially true when you’re talking about drugs in powdered forms.”

If you suspect overdose or would like support for a non-urgent overdose, call the 24-hour Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26.

Earlier this year, Thorne Harbour Health released a position statement advocating for pill testing and drug safety testing: thorneharbour.org/about/policy-advocacy/

04 Dec 2019

Quit Victoria, Thorne Harbour Health and Melbourne Queer Film Festival win a 2019 VicHealth Award

Quit Victoria, Thorne Harbour Health and Melbourne Queer Film Festival were last night presented with a 2019 VicHealth Award for their work in supporting the LGBTIQ+ community to become smokefree.

Held annually, the VicHealth Awards are the state’s highest accolade for health promotion, celebrating organisations working to create a healthier Victoria.

The Quit Victoria, Thorne Harbour Health and Melbourne Queer Film Festival project took out the award in the Preventing Tobacco Use category for their work in raising awareness of high smoking rates in the Victorian LGBTIQ community and empowering the community to make positive changes.

Quit Victoria Director Dr Sarah White said the Quit team was thrilled to receive the award alongside two dedicated organisations promoting wellbeing in LGBTIQ communities.

“LGBTIQ communities are likely to experience a higher health, social and financial burden with smoking rates nearly three times higher than the national average. It was important that Quit partner with the LGBTIQ sector to start a conversation with LGBTIQ communities and ensure members who smoke are given the support they need to become smokefree”, Dr Sarah White said.

Thorne Harbour Health Chief Executive Officer Simon Ruth was also delighted with the award. “Thorne Harbour Health’s partnership with Quit Victoria and Melbourne Queer Film Festival recognises a shared goal of reducing the impact of smoking in our communities. The initiative takes a comprehensive approach, including community engagement and co-design activities and service delivery change to ensure LGBTIQ community members get the support they need. The partnership demonstrates that with shared leadership and expertise, people can be supported to become smokefree.”

A key component of the initiative, according to Melbourne Queer Film Festival Chief Executive Officer Maxwell Gratton, was to provide emerging creatives the opportunity to produce short films highlighting the impact of smoking on LGBTIQ communities and to create relevant messages to change attitudes to smoking. “Our unique short film competition, now in its second year, has given people the opportunity to have their work shown before every screening at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival. To have also received a VicHealth Award acknowledging this work is very exciting.”

More information about the ‘Supporting LGBTIQ communities to become smokefree’ initiative can be found in the VicHealth Awards Finalist Gallery here and at quit.org.au/lgbtiq.

For more quitting advice, visit quit.org.au or call the Quitline on 13 7848. As part of this award-winning work, Quit counsellors have been trained to deliver smoking cessation advice to the LGBTIQ community in a culturally appropriate and accessible way. Quitline counsellors offer personalised, empathetic and non-judgemental support throughout a person’s quitting journey.


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