FIRST Lady Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa says men should adopt a health seeking behaviour has urged men to make use of available health services and not be left behind.
By HealthTimes Reporter
Amai Mnangagwa said this while officiating the Men’s Conference in Harare. The conference was a multi-sectorial to HIV and AIDS, men’s issues related to health services.
“It also appears to me that most men have a challenge with health seeking either because they were brought up to be strong or just that they have their own unresolved fears.
“With a positive health seeking behaviour, like openly seeking HIV testing and utilising the broad range of HIV combination prevention services available which include Voluntary Male Circumcision, prevention and treatment of HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections, and Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission among others, it can be a positive force for health and social revolution in your families,” she said.
She said the conference was a follow up of what she learnt from her interaction with women that men were left out in some Health programs.
“From my interaction with women it came to my attention that man were left out in the population and that is not right”.
“We are one nation made up of both men and women. You are an intricate part of our lives as women and as your mother I must listen to your concerns and play whatever part I can to address the challenges that you are facing,” said Amai Mnangagwa.
The first lady without giving the figures noted how statistics show fewer men than women making use of available HIV prevention and health services in general.
“All service areas indicate higher uptake by women and it appears to me that some men use their partners as proxies for their own health. So the thinking is if my wife is negative then I am negative too,” she said.
She added, “As a nation we can sustain and increase our gains in HIV prevention treatment and control of non-communicable diseases if all men commit to being agents of social change and health devolution.”
Amai Mnangagwa said it is important for couples to openly talk about preventing HIV for own health and that of families.
Speaking at the same event, Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo concurred with the First Lady that men should improve their health seeking behavior not just for their own health but their families too.
“Men are in most cases the bread winners and as such, we need a deliberate campaign to ensure that they seek and utilize the wide array of available health services.
“Keeping men alive is ultimately keeping families alive. As you know, once you lose a father and mother, the entire family is affected leading to additional problems including orphans and vulnerable children and street kids,” he said.
The Ministry’s response to HIV and AIDS recorded achievements including the world acclaimed reduction of HIV prevalence from over 29% in 1999 to 13.7% in 2018 and HIV incidence from 0.88% in 2011 to 0.48% in 2018.
Dr Moyo said, emphasis on the three strategies of Prevention, Prevention and Prevention has played a major part in the reduction of the overall burden of HIV and AIDS in the country.
“Access to antiretroviral therapy has also expanded and we now have nearly 1.2 million people on treatment.
We have also committed ourselves to ensuring that 90% of all people living with HIV should be aware of their status by 2020, 90% of people living with HIV should be on treatment by 2020, And 90% of people on treatment should have their viral load suppressed by 2020,” he said.
Dr Moyo said the Ministry is worried about the low uptake of health services by men.
“Despite this commendable progress, we are however worried as a Ministry about the general low uptake of health services by men, largely on account of a low health seeking behaviour.”
He said, “Data from several health indicators including HIV testing, STI treatment, antiretroviral therapy, Tuberculosis treatment, cancer screening and treatment, attendance at outpatient wards and others shows that less men compared to women, are forthcoming about their own health and that of their families.
In most cases, we always see women attending health centres with their babies – with men nowhere to be seen yet they are the fathers of the babies.”
Dr Moyo said the Ministry is involved in various initiatives to improve drug supply in the public health sector.
Health Ministry’s Family Planning Director Dr Benard Madzima acknowledged the gap in the access of health services by men attributing this to unavailability of programs targetting them.
“As the Ministry of Health, we also shoulder the blame that we don’t have specific programs which are designed for men. Assumption is that men are generally healthy thus most of our programs usually target women, and children especially. Its only lately because of HIV that we have started to consider men.
We also note that there is no readily available data to look at matters affecting men so that we prioritise men’s health as we dowith women and children’s health,” he said.