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Be PrEPared: How can pharmacists best support their LGBTQ+ patients?

There are a whole host of ways community pharmacy teams can be good allies this LGBTQ+ history month, says Peter Kelly

This month is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) history month, so I decided to have a chat with my good friend and comedian Mark Bittlestone about his experiences of being a pharmacy patient.

I started by asking Mark about his experience of using pharmacies in the UK.

His use of pharmacies is limited as he is a young, healthy man. However, his overall impression is that pharmacies are welcoming towards members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Mark's sexuality is not obvious to people who don’t know him. He believes that when he interacts with pharmacy staff, they probably do not realise he is gay and as someone who has known him for a number of years now, I can completely see that.

He did say, though, that he is very aware of how others interact with gay people.

Read more: Superdrug launches remote HIV prophylaxis prevention service

He said that if he was in a pharmacy and someone interacted uncomfortably or intolerably towards a gay person he would pick up on that and he believes other gay people would be the same. For example, they would pick up on facial expression cues such as raised eyebrows.

I found this quite interesting. He said most gay people will have spent some time in the closet so would have spent time assessing how the people around them are responding to and interacting with other gay people.

This makes perfect sense once it is pointed out to you.

We then talked about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which is a medicine that reduces your chances of getting HIV from sex or intravenous drug use.

When taken as prescribed, it is highly effective for preventing HIV.

Read more: MP and NPA urge NHS to allow pharmacy provision of HIV drug PrEP

Mark feels it is a wonder drug that has really taken a lot of fear out of having sex for gay men.

It is available free of charge on the NHS through sexual health clinics.

To help Mark and others this LGBTQ+ history month, I think it would be a good idea for pharmacies to get some leaflets explaining how PrEP works to keep and display in the pharmacy.

I think they also should also have up-to-date signposting information for sexual health centres located close to their pharmacy. 

It is mainly taken as a tablet. It can be taken daily as a single pill every day by anyone who needs it.

It can also be taken on demand by gay, bisexual men and transwomen. In this situation, two pills should be taken two to 24 hours before sex, one tablet 24 hours after intercourse and another 24 hours afterwards. This is known as the 2-1-1 schedule.

In addition, PrEP may be taken four times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays by gay or bisexual men and trans women.

Finally, PrEP may be taken as a set amount before and after a period when an individual expects to be sexually active. There is evidence that this is effective for anal sex in men.

Read more: Wales sets out ambition for pharmacies to give PrEP by 2026

Mark added that the other main health specific concern for gay men at the moment is monkeypox and having some information on hand about this infection would be a good idea.


Peter Kelly is a pharmacist at Kamsons Pharmacy

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