Those from marginalised communities are worse off
Men within marginalised communities across the Ngamiland district are said to be behind on knowledge, awareness, receiving of health care and prevention practices of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STI’s).
This observation was made by Men for Health and Gender Justice, a non-governmental organization which mainly advocates for gender justice and equal provision of sexual health services for both men and boys.
The organization predominantly focuses in all areas of sexual health including HIV prevention, STI, HIV treatment, delivery and facilitation of access to innovative prevention, care and support services.
In an interview, the organisation’s Ngami district coordinator Moatlhodi Kootlole revealed that the observation was made during their community outreach programme.
The community outreach is meant to take services to the people adding that they provide STI screening, HIV testing and counselling and spotting patients who are defaulting from HIV treatment. He noted that they work in collaboration with Tebelopele with mandate to raise awareness and encourage men to come forth and seek medical attention on STIs and HIV.
“When conducting the community outreach programmes, we target hotspots such as shebeens and bars, the response we get from community members is however disappointing as they still have traditional believes that they can use traditional medicine to cure HIV,” he revealed.
Kootlole explained that some men are reluctant to engage in HIV testing and screening of STIs giving excuses that their partners have already done the testing.
He revealed that a challenge they are currently facing is that men with same sexual orientation also have issues with having to seek medical attention from public hospitals due to the stigma around their sexual orientation. He noted that majority of gay men often visit their organization for assistance.
“We do not assist with STI medical attention, however we refer our clients to relevant health service authorities,” Kootlole noted.
To address the issue of sexual orientation stigma in the health sector, Kootlole said they conduct awareness to health service providers across Ngamiland to ensure that they are familiar and able to accept them as normal society members who are entitled to medical health services regardless of their sexual orientation.
“We believe that all men regardless of sexual orientation whether gay, bisexual, straight have got the right to access free quality healthcare services when and where they need them in privacy and be treated with and dignity,” Kootlole said.