COVID-19 and LGBT+ sexual health service delivery online

How sexual health services for LGBT+ people were delivered online during the COVID-19 lockdown in Manchester and what can be learned for the future.

The challenge

A chalkboard with 'Goodbye 5 Richmond Street' written in LGBT colours.

Since 1975, LGBT Foundation supports LGBT people in Greater Manchester, providing a range of services such as support groups, advocacy, and sexual health. The Sexual Health programme provides HIV and STI (sexually transmitted infections) rapid testing, counselling and outreach workshops, using a combination of face-to-face and online activities. 

During the COVID-19 lockdown, LGBT Foundation transferred its services and activities online. Anecdotal evidence suggests an increase in the number of people accessing services online. However, little is known about their demographics or geographical location, and whether ‘traditional’ service users have transitioned ‘online’. Exploring this is essential to understand LGBT Foundation role during the pandemic and whether online services may be a future avenue of work. This project aims to:

  • Describe the demographics of online service users during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Characterize the transfer of traditional users to online services and understand the role of online services.
  • Explore the experiences of and satisfaction with the online services provided.
  • Provide a framework for future online delivery of services.

The solution

This project collects people’s experiences of services, views of online activities, and desires for the future to understand the position of LGBT Foundation both during the COVID-19 lockdown and moving forwards in the ‘new normal’. In so doing, it provides guidance to evaluate activities and develop new projects.

This project includes a review of the available literature (particularly around the impact of COVID-19 on LGBT+ people), an analysis of the available data on service users collected by LGBT Foundation during the COVID-19 lockdown, and a free-text online survey distributed by social media. In addition, the Researcher will interview key stakeholders about their experiences of service delivery and gather the data obtained in a descriptive statistical presentation that will answer the key goals of this project. All this information provides an updated description of service users during the COVID-19 pandemic and summarises their experiences and desires. The research will abide by the British Sociological Association standards.

Impact

The research project will benefit LGBT Foundation by cementing our position as a leading national organisation. We will be able to take forward the report’s recommendations to further strengthen our community engagement and ultimately better provide LGBT communities with the information and support they need and deserve.

Lauren Duffy / Sexual Health Lead, LGBT Foundation.
  • The report is among the first to discuss the impact of online service delivery and has raised the interest of national organisations such as the NHS.
  • This project has had clear benefits for LGBT Foundation: providing reliable evidence across demographic groups. In addition, the report also includes a number of recommendations based on the responses and staff’s interviews. Some of these have already been taken up, such as the use of hybrid models for testing. It will also be essential for LGBT Foundation to secure future funding.< 
  • The report will be presented to other organisations and policymakers, initiating a national discussion about how LGBT services could move forward.

Research Lead

Jaime García-Iglesias, PhD Researcher in Sociology (The University of Manchester, School of Social Sciences).

2020 Project Excellence Awards

This research project won the Project Excellence Award, which recognises the significant achievements of our postgraduate and early career researchers in making a difference with their PhD skills and expertise in the wider community.

Find out more about the Project Excellence awards.

Final report

COVID-19 and LGBT Sexual Health: Lessons learned, digital futures?' explores the experiences of LGBT service users accessing online services during the COVID-19 pandemic. This ground-breaking report examines the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on LGBT sexual health and identifies the need for investment and innovation in future service provision.

The report sets out a series of recommendations for sexual health services, both general services and LGBT-specific, on how to address problems that predate COVID-19 that were exacerbated by the lockdown, and will continue to affect services after the pandemic is over.

Read it here