It’s a man’s world - all in the name of health

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It’s a man’s world - all in the name of health

A clinic has opened a 'man cave' to encourage males to take better care of themselves, and it's been a great success

Journalist


It is a man’s world at one corner of a health centre in Fourways, north of Johannesburg – all for a good medical cause.
When it comes to HIV, some positive men would rather die, literally, than frequent a clinic and pick up anti-retrovirals, research conducted in 2016 in KZN, as well as the lower age of male life expectancy has showed.
So in a bid to attract men to use healthcare, Witkoppen Health and Wellness Centre in Fourways, started a “man cave”.
Since October, the centre has been offering  a male-only clinic with the nurse clinician, receptionist, HIV counsellor all being men. For good measure, a “man-cave” sign made from a car licence plate greets visitors at the entrance.
But it’s not only about HIV. The man cave has created a space for men from Diepsloot, Kya Sands and Lion Park townships to speak about anything from the common headache to sexual health, get their prostate glands checked and have themselves treated for some of South Africa’s biggest killers: diabetes and high blood pressure.
It runs from Monday to Friday at R70 per appointment and medication.
The male-friendly clinic was designed in response to what men wanted, following Wits University-approved research conducted by the clinic.
Clinic director Dr Jean Basset said: “We know that men access medical care late. They often don’t want to access care because they feel a clinic is a female and children’s space.”
The man cave idea ironically was sparked about three years ago when clinic staff were helping teenage girls do HIV self-testing – part of a US-funded project, Basset said.
“They could then go and ask their partners if they wanted to self-test for HIV.”
But this led to the question on how to get positive men to come to the clinic to get antiretroviral treatment.
The Wits research showed men “wanted an environment specially allocated to them”. Respondents even asked for male décor, including car and sports pictures.
“It is about catering for different needs and preferences, in what is often perceived as a very rigid space,” said Basset.
Nurse clinician Abbey Metsileng, who studied for five years and has a medicine dispensing licence, wants the environment to feel comfortable and relaxed.
But as informal as an appointment is, he has to focus to get to the bottom of issues as “people don’t hand out information about their problems”.
Men talk comfortably to him about sex, erectile dysfunction and economic problems, he says.
Broadacres shop assistant Tshepo Mosehla, who attended this week, said he prefers seeing a man about health issues. “For me it is easier to say things I can’t say to a female.”
He felt the environment was supportive.
“When you queue, you ask the man [next to you], why are you here? I tell him my story. I thought my story was bad but then I hear his story.”
What really shows the man cave is working is the numbers, said Basset.
“Data shows of the 12% of the male patients that are newly diagnosed with HIV, nearly all start on antiretrovirals. This does not happen in the general clinic."

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