In the heart of Central, Hong Kong, hidden within its bustling financial district and high-end malls lies Hong Kong’s first specialised Sexual Health Centre, Neo-Health. Founded in 2007 by Dr. Francois Fong, Neo-Health today not only helps its patients deal with sexual health issues, it also provides executive health screening services with the opening of their Neo Health Screening and Specialist Centre in 2014. Housing an in-house laboratory service, they have not only been able to reduce testing times for their patients, but also provide increased privacy and confidentiality.
We’ve had the privilege to interview Neo-Health’s founder and Hong Kong’s first private sexual health practitioner, Dr. Francois Fong.
SimplySxy: Hi Dr Fong, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. It’s truly a privilege for us to hear about sexual health from someone like yourself. Please tell our readers more about yourself.
Dr Fong: My family moved to Melbourne when I was in high school and I completed my undergraduate training in both medicine and medical science at Monash University in Melbourne Australia. I was initially trained as a surgeon but I preferred more personal contact with patients, so I move changed my path in Family Medicine and sub-specialized in sexual medicine
SimplySxy: Tell us why did you decide to set up Neo Health and how did you find yourself becoming a sexual health practitioner and advocate?
Dr Fong: After training in family medicine which emphasizes on an whole person approach in caring for people physically, mentally and socially, I felt that sexual well being of patients is often neglected by medical profession and in particularly in Asia. In many cities in Australia, it is common to see sexual health clinics, such as Melbourne Sexual Health Centre and Sydney Sexual Health Centre. So I thought, Hong Kong being an international City should have a Hong Kong Sexual Health Centre.
However, I believe having a signage with “Sexual Health Centre” would still have stigma for people to feel comfortable to walk in the door. At the time, we did not know how well the service will be perceived and accepted. Neo-Health was set up as we had other services such as health screening, vaccination and family medicine, so people would not feel embarrassed when they enter our center.
SimplySxy: How has your patient demographic changed over time? What do you attribute this to?
Dr Fong: Initially, our patients were 90% expatriates and now roughly 50-50. We initially targeted the expat market as Western patients already have the concept of regular sexual health check-ups and have more positive attitudes in maintaining their sexual well being. Over time, the local patients are becoming more aware of sexual well being and finding us a comfortable place to have sexual health checkups without being worried about being stigmatized. Our emphasis on confidentiality and having our own laboratory played a very important part.
SimplySxy: You’ve lived in Melbourne for some time, what’s the difference culturally in terms of how your patients view sexual health?
Dr Fong: Western culture is more open in discussing sexual health issues and patients are more willing to talk about sexual problem with their doctors. In Hong Kong and many parts of Asia, patients are more reluctant. Sex educations also is conducted far better in Australia than in Hong Kong, such as how to practice safe sex. Today, I was talking with a patient from Australia who has just commented that in Hong Kong, he had come across people who believe that using Vaseline, message oil or even Olive oil as lubricant is ok.
SimplySxy: As you’ve mentioned before, sexual issues don’t just focus on the physical aspect, how is Neo- Health’s approach different?
Dr Fong: Many people believe being sexually healthy means they do not have sexually transmitted infection (STI) or HIV. However, we believe that sexual well being extends to their perception of sex, their own sexual identity as well as their interaction with their sexual partner. For example, many people we see with STI may be so because they have poor relationship (sexual or non-sexual) with their partners. So they may visit sex workers or engage in extra-marital relationship. Not until their relationship issue is addressed, the same behavioral pattern will repeat. When they have bad relationship with their partners, they feel guilty and miserable also. At Neo-Health, we have a team of international trained sex therapists, relationship counselors and psychologists to work on different aspects whether it is personal or couple issues.
SimplySxy: What are some of the most common sexual issues which you’ve encountered?
Dr Fong: We provides regular sexual health screening to patients, as well as managing common STIs such as chlamydia, herpes, genital warts. We also manage patients with HIV. We also manage other sexual issues such as erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, low sexual desire, sex addiction, etc.
SimplySxy: You’ve built Neo-Health into a World Class facility in a short span of time. What are some of the more advanced treatments that you provide?
Dr Fong: The key in providing patient care is to understand patient’s need. I think we have transformed patient care in some aspects. For example, many patients when they want to have a HIV test, they may already in a panic mode. Having to wait for 3 months to be able to have a HIV test is just ridiculous. We popularized the 4thgeneration HIV test which has a window period of only 2 weeks. But when we send out samples to an outside laboratory, it may take 2 days for the report to come back and much of the time were lost in logistic time while the test only takes an hour to perform. So we decided to set up our own laboratory service with my background in medical science. Even a few years back, it took 2-3 weeks for patients to get confirmation for their HIV status. Now we can provide HIV viral load and CD4 result within hours. We were also one of the few places in Hong Kong that provide Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) and Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) in Hong Kong for HIV prevention.
SimplySxy: What are your future plans for Neo-Health?
Dr Fong: We hope to continue to work with our partners such as NGOs or other organizations in promotion of sexual health as well as sex education. I have been conducting many lectures to doctors, pharmacists and nurses. It would be my vision to develop a medical specialty in sexual medicine in Hong Kong. For Neo-Health, it would be to expand on my vision that every city should have a sexual health centre like what we have now.
SimplySxy: As a sexual health practitioner, what are your biggest challenges?
Dr Fong: The most difficult part is to find partners with similar vision and personal characters. Sexual health practitioners have to be passionate, empathetic, non-judgmental and with very good communication skills. Skills can be trained but bed-side manner takes much longer to cultivate.
We’d ideally like to have some personal questions which Dr Fong can choose not to answer but we think that other than the professional side, it’s good to showcase a personal aspect to it as well.
SimplySxy: Have you had patients ask you to share your own experiences outside of the medical domain during treatment?
Dr Fong: I think during consultations, I do focus mainly on the patient’s problem. However, some gay patients did asked me whether I am a member because I seem to understand them so well.
SimplySxy: How does being a sexual health practitioner impact your own sex life?
Dr Fong: When we see patients, sometimes we do reflect on our own personal life and seeing others problems will help us to avoid pitfalls in our own life. I think it is good to understand these and to avoid one stumbling the same way and helping other to avoid troubles.
SimplySxy: Thank you very much Dr Fong for your time! Before we go, tell us, what’s sexy to you?
Dr Fong: Wet healthy looking figures.
Follow the sexy Dr Fong and Neo Health on:
Contact: (852)3162 0001
Address: 21/F Li Dong Building, 9 Li Yuen Street East, Central, Hong Kong
Featured image courtesy of Neo Health
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