Zulu has six children.
“I understand that there are lots of children who go to sleep on an empty stomach but, as a man, in order for my legacy to continue when I am gone I must play my role now and have lots of sons,” he said.
It’s because of these views that the Mpumalanga Department of Health recently held two men’s health dialogues in Gert Sibande District. More than 400 men attended the dialogues held at Piet Retief and Amsterdam communities.
The initiative was established after Mpumalanga Health MEC Sasekani Manzini raised concerns about men being apprehensive about getting tested for HIV and other illnesses. Manzini said the high number of men who default on ARVs and the fact that men are still not going to health facilities as frequently as women needed to be addressed.
The men’s health dialogues informed men about the importance of treatment adherence and accessing health services. The talks included vasectomy, HIV testing, male medical circumcision and protection against sexually transmitted infections. Participants were offered health screenings and testing against various diseases.
Dr Isiaka Olafiku Salawu, a manager at Piet Retief Hospital, said the hospital provided free vasectomies. Salawu advised men to get proper counselling before undergoing the procedure because it is not easily reversible. “Older men, above the age of 45, are of the view that it is against their cultural beliefs and have requested an alternative to vasectomy, either a pill or something,” said Salawu.
Sifiso Twala, who attended the Amsterdam leg of the meeting, tested positive for HIV in 2014 and has been on ARVs for more than three years but was told by a nurse that he had an undetectable viral load without her explaining what that meant. As a result, Twala said he thought the virus was gone and he stopped taking his medication.
“The problem is the lack of information about health issues and the fear of asking the relevant questions. Sometimes nurses assume we know and understand how the virus works in our body, which is not true,” he said.
Twala urged men to remember HIV comes with responsibilities.
“When you test HIV-positive you need to deal with acceptance, denial, disclosure and adherence,” said Twala.
Zanele Zwane, a local nurse, said as much as it is health workers’ responsibility to provide information about health issues, it’s also the responsibility of every patient to ask questions and ask nurses to explain any medical jargon they don’t understand.
Bhekimuzi Dlangamandla, a participant at one of the dialogues, said talk shops were a waste because the Department of Health did not consider their concerns and frustrations about the health facilities. According to Dlangamandla, the problems at clinics and poor attitudes of nurses are the reasons why men don’t like going to clinics. “Maybe if our health facilities were more ‘man-friendly’ it would make us trust the health services,” he said. – Health-e News
An edited version of this story was published by Health24.