Gay men at higher risk of contracting HIV

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Alvine Kapitako

Windhoek-The soon to be introduced antiretroviral services at the Namibia Planned Parenthood Association (NAPPA) youth friendly clinic in Okuryangava, means gay and bisexual men would access these services. The good news is gay and bisexual men would access these services with little to no fear of stigma or ridicule.

According to Lydia Kamati, the clinical assistant at the NAPPA clinic in Okuryangava most gay and bisexual men participate in anal sex without using a condom or lubricant.

“Anal sex is the riskiest type of sex for getting or spreading HIV,” said Kamati. Homophobia, Stigma and discrimination including negative attitudes about homosexuality may prevent gay and bisexual men from getting tested for HIV,” she added.

As a result, accessing health care services or even preventing HIV becomes difficult, she said. Therefore, gay men may consider pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), an HIV prevention option for people who don’t have HIV, but are at high risk of becoming infected with the virus, Kamati explained.

“They can also pick up condoms and lubricants. They can help their positive partners to suppress their viral loads. NAPPA aims to serve the youth and the marginalised groups,” Kamati noted.

According to a recent study, entitled ‘Intimate partner, familial and community violence among men who have sex with men in Namibia’, there were high levels of violence experienced by a qualitative sample of men in Namibia, who have intercourse with men.

Violence is potentially linked to HIV risk in a number of ways, the study highlights. For example, the perceived threat of violence from healthcare workers is a serious barrier to HIV testing, and the stress caused by multiple forms of violence may place some men who have sex with men at an increased propensity for sexual risk-taking.

“Given the high levels of violence described here, this study provides preliminary evidence that all Namibians should receive legal domestic violence protection, regardless of the gender of the perpetrator of the violence, although such changes to policy likely currently lack popular or political support,” according to the authors of the study Rob Stephenson, Marisa Hast, Catherine Finneran and Craig Sineath.

Additionally, they suggest healthcare providers who serve men who have sex with men should be trained to screen for and identify violence in the lives of their clients, given the links between violence, HIV risk and HIV testing.

“A better understanding of these issues is essential to the development of social and public health interventions aimed at reducing homophobia, violence and negative health effects among men who have sex with men in Namibia,” the authors further suggested.

The Windhoek-based youth friendly clinic will be the first to roll out HIV services, after which the other regions are expected to follow. Existing NAPPA clinics are located in Eenhana, Katima Mulilo, Rundu, Outapi, Walvis Bay, Keetmanshoop and Windhoek.

1 COMMENT

  1. No matter what you want to do in life, it is all up to us. One thing is for sure though, we need to be careful with the decisions we make if it is going to effect our health

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