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Men absent from HIV prevention efforts - Zwandor

2022-07-19  Loide Jason

Men absent from HIV prevention efforts - Zwandor

The UNAIDS country director, Alti Zwandor, says men continue to be missing in large numbers from HIV prevention and treatment services. 

Zwandor made the remarks last Thursday during a men’s engagement session in Katutura, Khomas region.

She said data from Eastern and Southern African regions indicates that men and boys in all their diversity are less likely to test for HIV, less likely to initiate antiretroviral therapy, less likely to remain engaged in care, and less likely to be virally suppressed. 

“They tend to test and access treatment,  considerably later than women, and as a result, are dying at disproportionately higher rates than their female counterparts,”  she said.

The director stated UNAIDS has been at the forefront of male engagement in the HIV response and in challenging gender norms that prevent men and boys from fully enjoying their right to health, especially if they are sexual and/or criminalised minorities or any other vulnerable group.  

“In previous years, the work done has looked at how men and boys access health and in what ways this can be improved and accelerated, to ensure that different entry points can be explored. Men’s low uptake for HIV-related services is driven by a range of multi-level factors,” she added.

Zwandor said whilst some barriers are the product of prevailing gender norms, focusing only on gender norms is an oversimplification.

“Men tend to lack the universal entry points to health systems that women generally have. Overall, a higher engagement of men and boys will have a positive impact on their health and, consequently, on the health, safety and access to services for women, thus contributing to creating a safer environment for all,” she said.

Hence to her, the men’s engagement dialogue organised through the City of Windhoek is a great opportunity for men to reflect, appreciate and celebrate male role models in their communities. 

“It is also a platform to deeply reflect on factors that are holding men back from enjoying good health and well-being and those that undermine healthy relationships in our communities. It also puts the spotlight on men’s health, improving gender relations, and recognising positive male role models who make valuable contributions to family, community and society,” said the director.

She explained that UNAIDS has developed a male engagement framework that looks at the structural enablers (legal and policy, supply of health services, demand creation,); and provides a framework for engaging men and boys in the HIV response to  increase prevention among men and boys in all their diversity and improve and increase testing; with suggestions of how to ensure that more boys and men start to adhere to treatment;  “As part of UHC, HIV policies, programmes and services need to be integrated into existing primary health services, systems and budgets.

Today’s discussions amongst men are wonderful steps to ending inequality and AIDS,”  she stated. 

Judika Fikunawa, regional officer for the Namibia Red Cross Society in the Khomas region, urged men to play an active role in finding solutions to social and health challenges that societies experience in Namibia.

2022-07-19  Loide Jason

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