Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Review of BBC3 "Unsafe Sex in the City"


BBC3 takes a frank look at how a sexual health clinic operates in Manchester. Following a n
umber of young people as they go through the process of testing, waiting, getting results and then if needed getting treated. Mixing true life stories and high quality sexual health advice this show has the power to do some good.  Revealing some shocking attitudes in the youth. Especially in regards to condom use. By both males and females. Plus the voice over guy has some great one liners. You can see the shows official page here and if you live outside the UK and want to watch this show have a quick look at TunnelBear . 
"I love dripping willies, 
because  then you know what they have"
For me the best part of the programme is seeing how the staff are professional and friendly. I really hope and believe that this programme will help increase the number of people going as now they have an idea what will happen. The mystery of sexual health clinics keeps so many people from darkening their doors until it is really bad. Even when breaking the worse news possible they stay professional, friendly and nonthreatening. 

The format of the show is to follow a number of people through the stages of getting tested at the clinic and then seeing what the results are both medically, socially and emotionally. All the people are very sexually active and I guess are not an average representation of all people in Manchester. Whilst the actually behaviors might not be average I bet lots of the attitudes from the show are common/average.  

Kelvin and Joe

"First one night stand, first time! First time for Gonorrhea ... Now needle in my ass"
Quote from Kelvin

Both Kelvin and Joe are shown as young people who enjoy a big night out and Joe is shown as being very cock sure and very confident in his attitude to women, he even writes a blog teaching other guys to act like him! He claims to have slept with 80+ women. Kelvin on the other hand starts the show in a long term relationship, then he admits he had a one night affair, which he catches Gonorrhea from. They show how he gets tested in graphic detail. For an over confident guy he is pretty scared of the needle they inject in his arse to cure the Gonorrhea. (no tablets for Gonorrhea, higher doses of antibiotics now needed to tackle the risk of drug resistant Gonorrhea). 

Kelvin comes back later in the show to double check he is now clear, he brings Joe to be checked. Joe, over confident as ever, makes jokes with nurse Lauren. Nurse Lauren was awesome, couldn't be phased by anything and gave some great dead pan looks at cock sure Joe. By the end of the show Kelvin had been dumped for cheating on his girlfriend and Joe had been given the STI all clear. Kelvin seemed to have learnt from his experience and might make a change in his behavior, Joe I don't think will change one bit. 

Courtney 

Possibly one of the most shocking attitudes in the show came from Courtney. This 17 year old claims to have had with 33 sexual partners, lost her virginity at 12 years old and is aiming to sleep with at least 7 people in the next 3 months. her Mum is exasperated by the risks her daughter is taking by consistently not using condoms and getting drunk and going back to strange lads house. 

Quotes from Courtney 
"I don't use protection because it don't feel as good." 
"If I'm gonna do it, I'm gonna do it" 
After a STI scare when asked if she will now use protection. 
"I will try and use it a lot more, I can't say for definite coz you know"

Her risk taking is huge, both with STIs and physical dangers of being drunk and going home with complete strangers alone. Sadly she seemed to relish in the possible self destruction and risks she is taking. 



Tim

One of the most emotional stories was Tim, a guy who is living a high risk life style is getting a regular point of service HIV test. A 30min quick turn around lets people quickly find out if they are HIV+. Tim regularly gets this test but this time the results are different. 

"You HIV test has come back positive." 
"Has it really? Has it really?"

Tim couldn't believe the result and went into shock. We find out he deals with the news by getting a big bottle of Vodka and getting drunk. Tim's blood is sent away for a more accurate test to confirm the result. Later we find out Tim got a false positive, a very rare event. The nurse did say that this was the only time she had known it to happen. Tim did seem to be strongly impacted by the experience. 





Conclusion


This show has great potential for raising the profile of sexual health issues, my fear is that the show will normalise/validate some of the less then healthy attitudes expressed by the people on the show. Their risk taking is huge! The sexual health clinic staff are awesome and good at challenging the attitudes but not sure if it is enough. I can't wait to watch the next episode next Wednesday. I think this is good information being spread in a relevant format for our culture. 

#unsafesexinthecity became a trending topic on twitter and it was interesting to read that most of the comments were very judgmental and even aggressive towards the people on the show. Only Tim seemed to get any sympathy but even Tim got some abuse. I have selected some tweets from the stream of comments. 



Of all the comments I was most worried about this. 
It shows a fundamental misunderstanding that HIV in the UK is a death sentence. That is an outdated attitude from the 80s. HIV should be seen as a serious life long condition not a death sentence. Hopefully this will be addressed in future episodes.