Navigating the complexities of ‘belonging’ as a female clinician in a men’s sex on premises venue

Stream: Navigating Sexual Health: Professional, youth and MSM perspectives
Date: Friday, 1 April 2016
Time: 11.15 am – 1.00 pm


Expanding sexual health screening into sex-on-premises-venues (SOPVs) potentially provides access to new populations of at-risk men, including those currently located at the margins of existing systems. However, SOPVs are commercial enterprises providing spaces for men to have sex, and entering those environments to provide clinical services is not without its challenges.

This presentation will provide a reflective analysis of the experience of delivering a pilot sexual health clinical service in a Sydney SOPV as a female clinician. Based upon the successful a[TEST] service, this pilot was first developed in 2014 as a collaboration between ACON and Western Sydney Sexual Health Centre, offering STI and rapid HIV testing deep in the heart of the SOPV, in a visually and spatially demarcated space, usually a VIP nude room.

Being female can be beneficial in demarcating the clinical role in this environment, but can also cause discomfort among clients. Issues of belonging have to be negotiated in both practical and symbolic ways – a male outreach worker must be present to make connections with men first, and act as an advocate and diplomat between clients and clinician.

While on-site screening services in SOPVs offer a unique way to scale up testing activities among MSM, issues relating to the insider/outsider status of those who deliver these services are important to recognise, to ensure both staff and clients feel they can belong in that space, even if the gender dynamics that feature when the clinician is a woman are new and potentially challenging for some.


Catriona Ooi (Presenter), Western Sydney Sexual Health Centre
Catriona Ooi, or treeny, is the clinical lead and sexual health physician at western Sydney sexual health centre, Westmead. She has worked in the field of HIV and sexual health medicine both in Australia and abroad for nearly 20 years. She contributes to text books and guidelines, and is involved with undergraduate and port graduate teaching with the University of Sydney. Treeny is currently engaged in several research projects and continues to maintain her good looks via a strict diet of sex drugs and rocknroll

Christy Newman, Centre for Social Research in Health
Christy Newman is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Social Research in Health. Christy has a background in health sociology and cultural studies and broad interests in expert and lived accounts, as well as social representations, of medicine ‘at the margins’. Her research explores contemporary social ideals underpinning the delivery and uptake of health services and health promotion, such as engagement, responsibility, trust, diversity and inclusion, as well as everyday understandings and cultures of health, illness and medicine.