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Last Updated: Monday, 24 November, 2003, 06:47 GMT
My London: The safe sex message
Helen Knox
Ms Knox publishes her own books and has set up a website
Nurse Helen Knox, from Chiswick, west London, has been spreading the word of good sexual health for more than 15 years. As well as getting the message, quite literally, on to the streets, she runs cyber-clinics and has published her own series of books.

It all started years ago when a friend of mine was a family planning doctor. I couldn't imagine how he remembered the names of all the different pills and how to decide which one to use.

I was fascinated by medicine and the more I learned the more I wanted to learn.

In 1991 a job came up and a friend of mine said 'this is you'. It was an outreach post to look and see what needed to be done over the course of 18 months on a sexual health campaign in Lambeth - and I got it.

I'd jump out at people in cars at traffic lights at Streatham Common to give out leaflets and condoms
Helen Knox
There was literally a blank canvas to work on. I thought, where do I go and what do I do? I need to be reaching people who you can't normally reach, so how do I do it?

I didn't consider going into schools as real outreach. You need to get your trainers on, your rucksack and your A to Z and go down all the dirty alleyways and speak to people.

I wanted to start a free condom supply to draw in the people in those areas who needed the advice most and get some education to them.

I went into places where there were mainly men and they would stare at this women who had just walked into their clubs. They thought I was mad.

I went into a snooker hall on Acre Lane, in Brixton, and handed out free condoms.

'Added value'

Or I'd jump out at people in cars at traffic lights at Streatham Common to give out leaflets and condoms. I did the same in Brixton, doing a health fair off the market and collaring people on the buses.

In 1992 I tried to run the first local radio advertising campaign for emergency contraception, the morning after pill, but at the time we weren't allowed to advertise prescription only drugs.

So we came up with something else, promoting condom supplies and promoting awareness about Sexually Transmitted Illnesses (STIs).

This was all during my pilot project time. The management then kept me on because I was 'added value'.

In a year I kept good statistics, I came face-to-face with more than 6,000 people and gave away many more condoms.

I don't know all the answers and I never will, but I am fascinated by the subject
Helen Knox
I was getting the message of sexual health and family planning into where they were most needed. I was everywhere.

In 1993 I wrote my first booklet called SEXplained - an uncensored guide to sexual health.

I got turned down by a publisher so I went to the library and took a book out. My friend helped lay it all out and put it together.

In the first book I used clear medical pictures. They are not there to shock. My view is we, as doctors and nurses, should not be the only ones to see the reality of what transpires after having contracted a sexually transmitted disease.

I decided to set up my own site, which looks at STIs, called SEXplained.com. It's visited by nearly 4,000 people a day from over 186 countries.

I don't know all the answers and I never will, but I am fascinated by the subject, compounded by the fact there is so much ignorance around.


My London is a series of features about life in the city which will be on News Online every Monday. If you have a story suggestion please send an e-mail to: londonnews@bbc.co.uk.





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