WA AIDS Council and Perth Steam Works renew partnership

The WA AIDS Council (WAAC) have announced they have recommitted to their partnership with Perth Steam Works, as the queer men’s venue reopens after months of lockdown.

The project is an extension of WAAC’s M Clinic, which provides free, confidential and inclusive STI testing for all LGBTIQ+ people in Western Australia.

Perth Steam Works owner Mike Drummond and WAAC CEO Lisa Dobrin sat down with OUTinPerth’s Leigh Andrew Hill for a chat about the renewed partnership.

“People can come in to Steam Works and they can come in and get tested for any STI or blood borne virus,” Lisa began.

“They can see a registered nurse in a confidential environment who can offer them some pre-counselling support around being tested, and they can actually do the test on-site.”

“They then get to access the venue for free and are able to enjoy themselves knowing that they are keeping themselves and the community as a result of being tested.”

Mike, who took over as owner of the venue earlier this year, is looking forward to continuing the venue’s relationship with WAAC as he reimagines what the venue can be as it moves into the future.

“The venue’s been around for 25 years, and I guess what it was before and the needs have changed, so we’re very much about moving into more of a social space and definitely get events happening.”

“Whilst obviously still providing the services we’ve always provided, and still providing a safe space for people to meet and have sex. That’s not everything that the venue’s going to be about, we’re really trying to promote the social aspects.”

“We’ve always had a lot of customers come in and it’s not necessarily about sex, they do come in just to watch television or sit in the bar… there are a number of reasons you might want to come in and sex isn’t the only one.”

Though dating apps may have disrupted the physical scene, Mike says the venue provides a sense of connection that can’t be recreated online.

“When we said that Jamie, my partner, and I had bought the business, they laughed and said ‘haven’t you heard of Grindr!'”

“I think a few years ago that may have been true, and there was a real risk to sex-on-premises venues globally with the shift to apps, but I think we’ve almost hit the point where people are starting to move away.”

“The human connection and the human interaction that you get with us, I think people are starting to want that again. It’s been a really interesting shift over the years.”

WAAC and M Clinic’s presence on-site also ensures anyone who is visiting the venue receives the most relevant information and care when receiving a sexual health test.

“It’s really important to understand that the epidemiology of HIV and other STIs and BBVs is quite different to a number of other places around the country,” Lisa explains.

“The epidemiology has shifted over the last five to ten years, from being predominately homosexual men, to actually more of the heteronormative population or heterosexual people.”

“That means men who are having sex with other men, who don’t necessarily identify as a homosexual male or a bisexual male, or people who identify as non-binary or transgender, those people may not be as aware of the importance of testing as homosexual men who are extra aware after many, many years of campaigning on the importance of sexual health and wellbeing.”

“What we really want to encourage is that those people who may not be so open about their sexuality, who are accessing a sex-on-premises venue like Steam Works, that they stay safe.”

Being able to reopen the venue after months of renovations in lockdown, Mike says he is eager to continue to work closely with the WA AIDS Council and grow their relationship moving forward.

“Having heavily invested in renovations to our steam room, spa, showers and terrace area over the past six months, we are extremely proud of our offering, which also includes supplying free condoms and lube throughout our premises.”

“Being able to continue to offer free sexual health testing as a result of this new partnership with WAAC is a great outcome.”

WAAC’s free sexual health testing clinic is at Perth Steam Works every Tuesday from 2 – 4pm.

You can find more information about both organisations at waaids.com and perthsteamworks.com.au

Leigh Andrew Hill

Image provided by WA AIDS Council.

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