Pub battling taboos by offering free STI and HIV tests to customers

The Castle pub in Norwich offers free HIV and STI testing. Picture: Archant

The Castle pub in Norwich offers free HIV and STI testing. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

A pub in the city centre is tackling taboos by offering free HIV and STI tests to drinkers once a month.

The Castle pub in Norwich. Picture: Archant

The Castle pub in Norwich. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

The Castle Pub in Spitalfields hosts staff from the Terrence Higgins Trust, a charity which provides services relating to sexual health, in their front bar on a Friday or Saturday night.

The charity offers free sexual health checks, as well as giving out condoms and advice to patrons.

MORE: Where's your home on the East Anglian Monopoly board?The Castle has offered this service for almost a decade and is one of a handful of LGBQT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) pubs in the region who works with the trust.

Danny Thurston, 28, is a supervisor at the pub. Picture: Archant

Danny Thurston, 28, is a supervisor at the pub. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

Supervisor at the pub, Danny Thurston, said: "We only ever have good feedback from our customers about this. I think it makes people see that it's not something to be afraid of."

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He added: "If ever they're in and there's no one approaching them the staff just go over and have one. I've done about three in the time I've worked here just to show that there's nothing to be scared of."

The tests are becoming ever-more important in raising awareness.

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"I was chatting to the Terrance Higgins ladies last time they were in and they were telling me that syphilis is coming back and that Chlamydia is on the rise in Norwich," Mr Thurston said. "It's important to be aware of that information and know how to stay safe."

The fact that the pub is a gay bar isn't relevant to the tests being offered, Mr Thurston said.

"We get such a mix of gay and straight customers," Mr Thurston said. "And it's a mix of both that take the tests."

And the fact that the tests can be done in a pub can actually help to diffuse some of the tension around sexual health checks.

"Because it's a more relaxed environment people just see the team and go over for a chat, see how easy a test is, and then end up doing one," said the Terrence Higgins Trust's specialist sexual health promotion officer Chris Simmons.

"It's about having options for everyone to do it when they feel comfortable so that anyone and everyone can look after themselves. We look after out physical health, and our mental health, so why wouldn't we look after our sexual health too?"

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