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Nov 12
“[We] sometimes struggle to speak about our health issues as men” – Varsity students and young professionals at Men-only event in Durban

By: Lunga Memela (Communication Engagement Lead)

Addressing men's health at a recent event. 

The issue of men not wanting to access healthcare services that are readily available for them has been contentious for quite some time. This has been highlighted in several studies over the years. For instance, a 2020 scoping review by a team of local researchers explored barriers to HIV testing uptake among men in sub-Saharan Africa when compared with their female counterparts. Can HIV lessons tell us why South African men are so slow to get a COVID jab, questioned an article recently published by Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism, while another article by Health-e News explored reasons for vaccine hesitancy amongst men, with reasons including fears over sexual dysfunction post-vaccination.

Fresh perspectives on men's health issues recently filled a small auditorium full of male-only tertiary students and young professionals residing at HOMii establishments in the city centre of eThekwini. 

Thanks to this first-of-a- kind initiative uniting the young city dwellers at HOMii's Maison Building with an aim to encourage dialogue about the reality and prevalence of men's health issues, it was agreed that due to a number of social, religious and cultural factors, including sexual orientation, HIV status and associated stigma, a large number of available health services remain under-accessed and, men's health issues, in the main, are under-discussed. The event displayed growing admission that young men do actually want to access healthcare services, but that there are numerous barriers that prevent them from doing so which have often been overlooked.

The vast majority of attendees grew up in rural, township and peri-urban communities where perceptions of manhood and masculinity clouded their judgement around the benefits of speaking out, seeking help, and even being spotted at local health facilities. This is despite the country's ongoing health education initiatives and interventions, and perhaps calls for parents and communities to reconsider how they raise young men, especially in a country with the highest statistics for HIV and TB prevalence.

The event organisers were thrilled to learn about the work done be non-governmental organisations such as the Health Systems Trust (HST) to support KwaZulu-Natal's Department of Health (KZN DoH) in promoting men's health services within an array of communities most of which attendees hailed from, but left in order to pursue higher education and better career opportunities in the city.

They heard at the event that HST has supported the KZN DoH with implementing the MINA Men's Health Campaign in four of the province's health districts: eThekwini, uMgungundlovu, uThukela and Zululand, where HIV Testing Services strongly promote voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) to all members of society, including men.

The attendees were fascinated to know that HST is home to several MINA Campaign Champions, and that a cohort of its community-based employees are playing a critical role in launching the targeted Phila Ndoda programme, a men-friendly clinic designed to address men's health issues, with the main focus being on HIV, TB, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

"As youngsters, we often don't know how to address our own men's health issues," expressed the attendees as increased dialogue and testimonials filled the auditorium. One of the red flags was the amount of stress, anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide often experienced by the young men. They said they often bottle it up inside with nobody to talk to comfortably about the matters at hand.

The speakers said there is hope, there is help. Organisations such as the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) have launched campaigns specifically aimed at men with depression. They also encouraged attendees speak out about their problems and to form support groups that will eliminate stigma and encourage overall wellness.

The prevalence of STI's, correct and consistent condom use, family dynamics, gender-based violence, coping with life and dealing with depression were some of the key topics discussed. It is hoped that such engagements will increase amongst young men in order to promote health and prevent other social ills.

SADAG ( encourages you to always reach out and seek help:


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