Why Men Feel Uncomfortable Being Tested For STIs

Many people find the idea of a sexual health check awkward or embarrassing. After all, it’s not every day someone you barely know asks you intimate details about your sex life or asks to examine your Lana and Hazel. On that point, let me start by spilling the T on one of my own experiences.

I came out and hit the gay scene in Cape Town in the late 90s. Those were FABulous days – anyone who experienced the heydays of Bronx and the party scene of the time can Gayle about it for days. So the floodgates were ripped open and Patsy was the word of the day … and Gurhl, did we PATsy!

While everyone could Gil about what happened at the club on the weekend or who hooked up with whom at the sauna after the club, there was hardly ever talk about STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) or the sexual health issues we were facing at the time. It was only recently after a hilarious phone call with a friend that I realised that we both had a similar experience.

Anyways … It was a few days after an epic New Year’s Patsy when I started to develop an itchy Hazel. Have you ever seen a dog drag its Hazel on the ground because it’s itching so much? Well, this was worse! I was way too embarrassed to speak to friends about it, let alone a doctor, so with the limited resources available to me at the time I did some research and was convinced that I had anal warts – shock horror!

So I Miena Minaj to a pharmacy on the other side of the city and pick up a product that looked like nail polish in a little opaque bottle and smelt vile. I finally pluck up the courage and apply the self-medicated concoction on my Hazel in a very awkward position, but I was not prepared for the fires of hell that descended upon me. To spare you the gory details, I managed to end up on a doughnut cushion for two weeks. Try explaining THAT! It turns out that I had contracted a strain of HPV which is one of the most common STIs and that was (eventually) very easily treated.

How different thing would have been if I were more open and honest with the friends for life that I still have from those crazy days, or if I just swallowed my pride and went to see a doctor or health care worker. One of the biggest life changes I have made since this experience is to find a doctor that I am comfortable with.

You need to find a health care professional or service that works for you in order to have an open and honest relationship. For me, this has led to much more comfortable conversations and consultations about things that I may never have asked or spoken about previously. It has also made me a much better informed and calmer person when it comes to my sexual health.

Being comfortable with your health care service provider is half the battle won. There have been many intimate situations that I have had to deal with since, but knowing that I could access a professional judgement-free zone made it so much easier. It is also easier to really listen, I mean PROPERLY listen to sound medical advice from someone you trust instead of Dr Google.

I now take my sexual health a lot more seriously, and regular STI testing has become much easier for me to handle both emotionally and psychologically. I have opened up about things that I may never have spoken to friends and family about and it has been for the absolute best.

Many men today still avoid getting checked out even if they know that something is wrong. The later you leave an STI to be checked, the more things can escalate, and self-medicating is, well, from my own experience, not advised!

Jonathan Swart is a contributing writer for Engage Men’s Health. Engage Men’s Health offers free and confidential sexual health services to gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in the Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City metros – with no judgment. Services include free HIV and other STI testing and treatment and free PrEP, which prevents HIV. Call or WhatsApp us on 082 607 1686.

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Shop & swipe at Woolies to support OUT & Engage Men’s Health

Now you can support OUT LGBT Well-being and our Engage Men’s Health project through the Woolworths MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet card initiative. It’s easy and won’t cost you a cent!

If you already have a MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet card, please add OUT LGBT Well-being as one of your beneficiaries by using the form here: https://bit.ly/2VQF0zu (or by updating your beneficiaries online here: https://www.myschool.co.za/supporter/update.)

If you are a Woolworths shopper but haven’t yet signed up, you can use the same form to apply. Please fill out and sign the form (making OUT LGBT Well-being your beneficiary) and email it to cs@myschool.co.za.

Once you’ve completed and sent the form you don’t have to do anything else! Every time you shop at Woolworths, they will donate a portion of your spend to OUT at NO COST to you.

Why do we need your help?

OUT LGBT Well-being is the second oldest LGBT community group in South Africa. While we are funded to provide a range of HIV, sexual health and hate crime-related services, some of our operating costs are not covered by funders. We also aim to broaden our activities to offer additional services for much-needed challenges facing the MSM and LGBT communities, such as improving our psychosocial / counselling support. OUT runs the TEN81 clinic in Pretoria and the Engage Men’s Health services in Joburg, and the Eastern Cape, all of which are free.

You can download the application form here: https://bit.ly/2VQF0zu.

Please make sure that “OUT LGBT Well-being” is listed as the beneficiary and please email the completed form to cs@myschool.co.za. Thank you for your support!

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Pride with Purpose

On 27 June 2020 we saw the first digitally streamed Global Pride celebration hosted by queer star Todrick Hall to close off Pride Month. Many people commented that they were disappointed that it wasn’t enough of a party. It’s clear that many members of our community don’t know, or have forgotten what Pride is actually about, so we want to share the love and bring the family up to speed.

International Pride Month commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Riots, a series of incidents in New York City that launched the gay liberation movement of the 70s and 80s — and forged a path for LGBTIQ+ acceptance.

Today, the rainbow and the rainbow flag have become the universal symbol for the LGBTIQ+ community. Rainbows are perceived as somewhat magical but they are a very natural phenomenon.

It is a symbol of hope as rainbows are often seen after a rainstorm when the sun breaks through the clouds. The rainbow is also a symbol of unity as the colours are always seen together in harmony.

The rainbow flag further has connections with Judy Garland, a favourite figure of the gay community who sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in “The Wizard of Oz.”

And while there are many, many, many versions of the Pride flag — there’s a bisexual flag, pansexual flag, asexual flag, intersex flag, transgender flag, and gender-fluid flag, to name a few, the most commonly-seen Pride flag features six colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.

It’s often said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. As South Africans, we are very aware of our problematic political past and how we are still fighting to truly become that elusive rainbow nation we speak so much of.

The LGBTIQ+ community and how we engage with each other has changed dramatically with the rise of the digital age and because we tend to have more rights than before, we forget about the people who fought to get us here.

That’s why it’s important to brush up on the rich history of Stonewall, and the transgender activists behind it — like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera — as well as LGBTIQ+ terms that’ll help you support and uplift the queer community in an educated fashion.

The Pride flag was initially created by the late artist and activist Gilbert Baker in 1978 following the election of Harvey Milk, the first-ever gay American to be elected to office as San Francisco city supervisor in California. “We needed something to express our joy, our beauty, our power. And the rainbow did that,” Baker told CNN in 2015.

The colours of the flag stand for diversity, inclusivity, life, healing, sunlight, nature, harmony and spirit.

More recent versions of the flag feature additional black, brown, light blue, pink, and white stripes to include marginalised people of colour and transgender individuals.

The Pride flag of South Africa is a symbol that aims to reflect the freedom and diversity of the South African nation and build pride in being an LGBTIQ+ South African. Designed by Eugene Brockman, the flag is a hybrid of the LGBTIQ+ rainbow flag and the South African national flag launched in 1994 after the end of the apartheid era.

The purposes of the flag include celebrating legal same-sex marriage in South Africa and addressing issues such as discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, corrective rape crimes and to raise awareness of violent crimes that are still perpetuated on the LGBTIQ+community.

By teaching young people about the importance of every colour of the rainbow, we can encourage awareness, kindness, and acceptance for all.

We have come so far but we still have far to go. It’s easy to forget that though South Africans have rights and are protected under our Constitution in theory, this not always a reality in daily life. In many countries on our continent, LGBTIQ+ people are also often denied the most basic of rights.

While COVID-19 has become the new normal we can still find Pride in our achievements, celebrate how far we have come, and speak out against continued injustice. Know your rights, be aware of our queer history, protect yourself from COVID-19 and HIV and look after your sexual health. Don’t forget that we are stronger together and that your community needs you.

Engage with Engage Men’s Health about free sexual health services. We offer free and confidential sexual health services to gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in the Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City metros – with no judgment. Services include free HIV and other STI testing and treatment and free PrEP which prevents HIV. Call or WhatsApp us on 082 607 1686.

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Older not colder

Everyone knows life doesn’t stop at 45, yet many people think sex does.

Few stereotypes of gay life are as persistent as that of the sexually starved older man. Gay life has traditionally centered on the young and the beautiful. This issue is a particularly hot one for gay men because, regardless of age, we may still have a strong interest in sex. As we mature, many gay men feel distanced from or unwelcome at some social venues such as clubs or bars. Even on gay websites and dating apps, some younger guys make older men feel unwelcome or make us feel as if we have become unattractive or simply invisible.

Gay men sometimes treat each other as mere physical objects and we may feel judged purely on the basis of our age and our appearance, leaving us feeling socially and sexually undesirable. Many safer sex campaigns focus on younger guys, perhaps forgetting that we still remain vibrant sexual beings as we get older.

What You Should Know

  • Having sex at a mature age carries the same health risks as it does for younger guys. We remain susceptible to contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), especially if we are receptive (bottom) for anal sex. We can also transmit such infections to our partners.
  • HIV and other STIs are sometimes overlooked in older people; healthcare providers forget that we may still be sexually active, and the symptoms of HIV may be similar to the natural effects of the ageing process. It is therefore important that you get tested for HIV and other STIs regularly.
  • Conditions attributed to ageing, such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems and arthritis may occur earlier in men who are HIV positive, who may also be more prone to forgetfulness and depression.
  • If you are HIV positive, getting on and remaining on ARV treatment is vital to stay healthy and help prevent infecting your partners. If you are HIV negative, PrEP (the daily HIV prevention pill) is a powerful and easy tool to stay that way.

Problems In Bed? What Can You Do?

  • There are many reasons to stop (or cut down) on smoking and drinking, including the fact that nicotine and alcohol contribute to erectile dysfunction (ED). Cholesterol can also be a contributing factor. HIV itself may also play a role in ED.
  • Watch your waistline. High blood pressure, high blood sugar and high cholesterol can cause the vascular problems that lead to trouble with your erections. It’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle by exercising and keeping your weight down.
  • Get your heart checked, especially if you already have an established condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
  • Some healthcare providers are uncomfortable talking about sex, especially with an older person. If you have concerns or questions and need to talk about sex, raise the subject yourself – there is no shame!
  • Don’t assume that you have low testosterone. However, a drop-off in desire can be related to hormones. For erection issues, it can be helpful to get your testosterone checked.
  • Don’t use any products to boost your sexual functioning without your doctor 0r healthcare provider’s consent.
  • Talk to your partner if your sex drives are mismatched. It’s common for couples to have mismatched sex drives. If that’s the case, couples need to speak frankly about what is important to them sexually and try to come to a compromise to meet both of their needs.
  • Sexual issues such as low libido and erectile dysfunction may have an emotional component, so psychological counselling may be an option.

Getting older doesn’t mean you can’t have a fulfilling sex and love life, but it does mean that you should be aware of and manage your health and well-being to stay in tip-top shape!

For free sexual health services – including PrEP and HIV/STI testing and treatment – in the Johannesburg metro, Nelson Mandela Bay or Buffalo City areas, call or WhatsApp Engage Men’s Health on 082 607 1686. (If you live in other areas, you can also contact us and we will try to refer you to another service closer to you.)

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Sex: Lowdown or Lockdown?

South Africa is under lockdown to slow the coronavirus pandemic – and that includes not hooking up for sex. Unfortunately, even after the lockdown ends, we may still need to reduce casual sex and hookups to keep ourselves and others safe from COVID-19. 

While EMH is a sex-positive organisation and we encourage men to enjoy their sex life, we currently recommend abstaining from casual sex to avoid getting and spreading coronavirus. It’s about protecting your general health and that of those around you (including the most vulnerable in our society) from a virus that can be deadly and could devastate our health system and economy.

While sex is an important part of life, right now we have to find other ways to achieve sexual pleasure and satisfaction. It’s time to stay at home, stop close contact with people outside our household and to be creative about how we manage our sex lives.

Here are a few sex-related questions you may have during the time of coronavirus:

  • Can the coronavirus be passed on through sex?

It is important to remember that the virus is definitely spread through saliva and mucus; so kissing is a very high-risk method of transmission. There are also concerns that the virus may be transmitted via faeces so anal play, such as rimming, may be risky. Latest scientific findings have shown that the coronavirus has been found in the semen of some men who got the virus but it’s not yet clear what this means.

  • It is safe to have sex?

Don’t believe that you are safe just because someone looks healthy. Remember that people can be infected with the coronavirus and may not show any symptoms but can still pass it on. Sex with someone with whom you are sharing a home and are self-isolating is one of the safer options; you are already living close to each other.

Do not be tempted to bring any other individuals from outside of your home into your sex life during this crisis. It’s strongly recommended that you don’t hook up with strangers or multiple partners.

  • What other ways can I have sex?

The safest kind of sex you can have – as always – is with yourself – i.e. good old masturbation! Take all the time you need to pleasure yourself to let off your sexual steam. This is where the amazing power of the internet comes into play. You can visit free adult sites to get an eyeful of sexual stimulation. You can also use hook-up apps or sites to chat with other people to get yourselves off, but just not in the same room! If you are using video or sharing pictures to have fun with someone online, take great care that the footage and photos don’t get misused to blackmail or embarrass you. The rule of thumb is to never include your face in any sexually explicit images or video that you appear in.

  • Should I still be taking PrEP?

If you are still hooking up or having casual sex (despite recommendations not to), then continue to use (or get onto) PrEP to avoid HIV infection. However, if you are not having sex and are adhering to lockdown and social distancing rules, then you may choose to stop PrEP for now. It’s safe to stop PrEP as long as you keep taking it for two days after you last had sex. If you are on PrEP for a very specific reason, such as living with an HIV positive sexual partner, you should keep taking PrEP.

Remember that once you’re ready to start using PrEP again, you must take the daily dose for seven consecutive days before it will protect you from HIV (ie. don’t have unprotected sex during those seven days).

  • HIV positive? Don’t stop taking your ARVs 

If you are HIV positive, do keep taking your ARVs (or get onto them if you are not currently on treatment). Being on ARVs will not only keep you healthy and reduce your risk of passing on HIV to others but will also help boost your immune system – very important during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • What if I need to get tested for an STI?

Sexual health services are reducing their face-to-face appointments to reduce the risk of infection. There are limited sexual health services available over this lockdown period, but EMH in Johannesburg and OUT’s TEN81 in Pretoria will both be open for services (details below). If you are in another city or from another province you need to contact your local sexual health clinic for more information.

For more information or to make an appointment, please call:

EMH clinic in Melville, Johannesburg
010 500 0934
www.engagemenshealth.org.za

OUT’s TEN81 clinic in Hatfield, Pretoria
012 430 3272 / 066 190 5812
www.out.org.za

Resources (South Africa):

If you are concerned that you have coronavirus and/or have any symptoms, call the national coronavirus hotline for further advice and support: 0800 029 999.

To stay up to date on coronavirus news, developments and symptoms, save the official coronavirus WhatsApp service number on your phone: 060 012 3456. Send “hi” to the number and follow the prompts. You can also visit the SA government’s coronavirus website here.

Article sources: Terrence Higgins Trust / NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

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Vital HIV services for MSM continue in Joburg and Pretoria during lockdown

Two specialised health clinics for men who have sex with men (MSM) will continue to provide free life-saving HIV services, despite the national coronavirus lockdown.

Gay, bisexual and other MSM are among the most vulnerable to HIV infection in South Africa. They are also likely to face stigma and discrimination at mainstream clinics when it comes to their sexual health.

All services and treatment at Engage Men’s Health (EMH) in Melville, Johannesburg and OUT’s TEN81 clinic in Hatfield, are free and will continue during the lockdown (for new and existing clients):
• ART (HIV treatment / medication)
• PrEP (the daily pill that prevents HIV)
• PEP (medication for emergency exposure to HIV)

“HIV will not be on lockdown during this crisis so it is important to ensure that those who need treatment, prevention and support continue to receive it,” says Executive Director Dawie Nel.

He points out that individuals who are HIV positive and are not on treatment and / or have weakened immune systems may be at higher risk of more severe coronavirus symptoms. “If you are HIV positive or suspect you may be HIV positive, now is the time to get tested, and get on and stay on treatment, which could help save your life,” explains Nel.

In addition to HIV services, TEN81 will also provide limited phone and Skype counselling to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) and MSM individuals dealing with urgent matters or crises.

The LGBT and MSM communities face numerous psychosocial challenges due to living in a heteronormative and biased society. These are likely to be heightened during a stressful period like the one we are now experiencing, so it is important that we continue to provide as much support and care as possible,” says Johan Meyer, Operational Director at OUT LGBT Well-being.

The following measures have been put in place by the clinics to protect both clients and staff from spreading the coronavirus:

• Visits and collections STRICTLY by appointment only. No walk-ins will be allowed
• No physical contact during consultations unless necessary
• Only one client allowed in the clinic at any time. Anyone waiting outside must maintain a safe distance from one another
• Surfaces will be wiped down with disinfectant regularly and staff will wear gloves and masks
• Staff will work on a rotation basis

For more information or to make an appointment, please call:
• EMH clinic in Melville, Johannesburg
  010 500 0934
  www.engagemenshealth.org.za 
• OUT’s TEN81 clinic in Hatfield, Pretoria
   012 430 3272 / 066 190 5812
   www.out.org.za

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#PrEPup on the basics

Here is a compilation of frequently asked questions we get about PrEP and we answered them for you:

What is PrEP ?

PrEP is a daily pill taken by people who are HIV negative to prevent HIV infection.
PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis.

Pre – before
Exposure – coming into contact with HIV
Prophylaxis – a medicine to prevent infection

What’s the difference between PrEP, PEP and ARVs?

PrEP is taken by HIV negative people in advance BEFORE sex to prevent HIV.
PEP is taken by HIV negative people as an emergency treatment AFTER high risk exposure to HIV.
ARVs are medication taken by people who are HIV positive to stay healthy.

What is the standard PrEP dosage?

1 pill per day

How much does it cost?

PrEP is supplied free by Engage Men’s Health to gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM).

How well does it work?

HIV-negative people who take PrEP every day can lower their risk of HIV by 99%.

Who should take PrEP?

Only people who are HIV negative, especially those at high risk of HIV infection. This includes people who have multiple sex partners and inconsistent (or no) condom use, men who have sex with men, those in relationships with HIV positive partners, recreational drug users who engage in chemsex, injecting drug users and sex workers.

For how long do I take it?

You need to take PrEP for as long as you feel you will need HIV prevention. You can stop taking it when you don’t need it anymore. This depends on your sexual behaviour. It is important to remember that if you stop taking PrEP you are not protected from HIV. You can start PrEP again in future if you want to go back on it. It is advisable to let your healthcare worker know when you decide to stop and to speak to them if a long period has passed since you stopped and want to start again.

What does PrEP prevent?

PrEP ONLY prevents HIV infection, and not other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

How does PrEP work?

PrEP does not work the same way as a vaccine. A vaccine teaches your body to fight off infection for several years. For PrEP, you take a pill every day by mouth. PrEP works by interfering with the virus’ ability to reproduce itself in your body. Because the virus is not able to reproduce itself it gives your body the chance to fight off the virus and prevent infection. PrEP only works if it is in the system before a HIV negative person comes in contact with HIV. This means if you decide to take PrEP don’t forget to take it daily. .

What about using condoms?

Daily use of PrEP will protect you from HIV infection, even without condoms. The use of condoms and water-based lube is, however, still recommended as this will also help protect you from other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). PrEP is not designed to fight other STIs so it’s important that even if you are on PrEP that you continue to test for STIs at your local sexual health clinic

What are the side effects?
Some people may experience mild side effects when they start PrEP.
• Nausea
• Headache
• Tiredness
• Diarrhoea
• Depression
• Unusual dreams
• Vomiting
• Rash
• Problems sleeping
• Changes in appetite
In most people, these side effects go away after a few weeks.

How do I start PrEP?
Make an appointment at one of our sites in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth or East London or see one of our outreach teams:

• We will give you a rapid HIV test.
• If the result is negative, you’ll be given PrEP for a month.
• Blood will also be drawn from your arm and will be sent to the lab. The lab will:
+ double check for HIV again
+ check for kidney function
• Return after a month.
• If blood results from the lab show you are HIV positive or that your kidney function is bad: you stop PrEP immediately.
• If blood results from the lab confirm you are HIV negative and kidney function is good: you will receive a 3 month supply of PrEP.
• Your next appointment for blood tests and PrEP collection will be in 3 months.

How long before it starts to work?
You need to take PrEP every day it for at least 7 days before it will protect you when it comes to anal sex. (A woman or transgender man who has vaginal sex must take PrEP daily for 21 days for it to work.)

What happens if I forget to take it?

If you forget to take your PrEP pill on a certain day, take it as soon as you remember (but don’t take it twice in a day if you forgot to take it yesterday). If you take PrEP daily, you will become more than 90% protected from HIV. Very occasionally missing a day shouldn’t have a major impact but the more you miss taking it daily the less effective it becomes. If you stop completely, you will no longer be protected at all.

Any other tips for taking PrEP?

* Drink plenty of water while on PrEP to keep kidney function good
* Set an alarm to remind you to take PrEP
* Talk to your clinician about side effects
* If you forget to take PrEP, take it in the moment you remember it.

Can I donate blood when I am on PrEP?

The SANBS does not accept blood donations from people on PrEP.

Who do I contact to get free PrEP?

If you live in the Johannesburg metro, Nelson Mandela Bay or Buffalo City areas call or WhatsApp / Engage Men’s Health on: 082 607 1686. (If you live in other areas, you can also contact us and we will try to refer you to another service closer to you.)

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EMH lockdown clinic services in Johannesburg

We’re still here! The Engage Men’s Health clinic at 27 Boxes in Melville will continue to provide selected vital services during the national lockdown period. Please note the below details.

* The clinic is open Mon – Fri throughout the lockdown

* Hours are 8.30 – 16:30

* There are no Saturday services during this time.

* Services on offer: PrEP, ARV and PEP initiation/collections.

* No physical contact during consultations, unless absolutely necessary.

* If required, clients will be verbally assisted to administer a simple HIV self-screening test.

* If the result is positive, the nurse will administer a confirmation test and provide ARV treatment.

* Only one client allowed in the clinic at any time.

* Visits/collections STRICTLY by appointment only. No drop-ins.

* Appointments to be made by calling 010 500 0934 / 060 985 6008

* The 27 Boxes centre will be closed so when arriving for your appointment, please use the 3rd Avenue entrance. On arrival at the entrance, call 010 500 0934 and the receptionist will collect you.

* After the consultation, the receptionist will escort you back to the 27 Boxes exit.

We wish you safety and good health during this period.

The EMH team

PLEASE NOTE:

If you are concerned that you have coronavirus and/or have any symptoms, please call the national coronavirus hotline for further advice and support: 0800 029 999.

To stay up to date on coronavirus news, developments and symptoms please save the official coronavirus WhatsApp service number on your phone: 060 012 3456. Send “hi” to the number and follow the prompts.

We also urge you to visit the official SA government (data free) coronavirus resource website at https://coronavirus.datafree.co/.

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Engage Men’s Health statement on the coronavirus crisis

As we face the threat of the coronavirus in South Africa and across the world, the well-being of Engage Men’s Health’s clients, staff members and community is of critical importance. We would, therefore, like to inform you of what steps we are taking to reduce the risk of infection while maintaining our services.

1. We will continue to provide our usual HIV and sexual health services for now, although we will be limiting the scale of services.

2. The coronavirus may have a more severe impact on those with weaker immune systems. Anyone who is HIV positive who is not on treatment may be at higher risk. We recommend that they contact us or another health provider to get onto free ARV treatment. If you are on ARV treatment already, please stay on it and ensure you have adequate stock. We urge those in our communities who do not know their HIV status to get tested.

3. We will be limiting the number of staff in the field and at our clinic/offices. We are working to ensure that we are equipped with alcohol-based sanitiser and masks as needed.

4. We will ensure that only one client at a time will wait in our clinic/office reception area. Other clients are asked to remain outside until it is their turn.

5. We will not be accepting walk-in clients during this time and request that clients please call us to make an appointment before coming to our clinic or office. For those collecting medication, please make sure that you have pre-arranged this telephonically.

6. Where possible, our office-based staff will be asked to work from home and/or on a rational basis. This is to reduce the number of staff in the office at any time and will limit their contact with others, such as when using public transport.

7. We will do our utmost to accommodate staff with children who need day-care in the wake of school closures by allowing them to work from home wherever possible.

8. Our clinic and services are not equipped to assist patients who may be sick with coronavirus. If you are concerned that you have coronavirus or have had contact with anyone who may have been exposed, we urge you to rather stay at home and self-quarantine. We will, however, accommodate clients who need to collect their HIV medication as long as they first call or Whatsapp / message us on 082 607 1686 to arrange collection.

9. If you are concerned that you have coronavirus and/or have any symptoms, please call the national coronavirus hotline for further advice and support: 0800 029 999.

10. To stay up to date on coronavirus news, developments and symptoms please save the official coronavirus WhatsApp service number on your phone: 060 012 3456. Send “hi” to the number and follow the prompts.

11. We urge everyone to avoid unnecessarily travelling, socialising and congregating with other people. Wash your hands for 20 seconds regularly and after every interaction with other people, public spaces and surfaces. Use hand sanitiser when and if possible. Also, practice social distancing of at least one metre, and avoid touching your face.

12. If you have any questions about our services or wish to make an appointment, please call or Whatsapp / message us on 082 607 1686.

We believe that by working together, staying aware of developments via official and reputable news sources, and following recommended practices, we can overcome this crisis and limit the spread of coronavirus. Wishing you and your loved ones the best of health.

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Keenan: Single, sexually active and on PrEP

As a single and sexually active guy in his twenties who’s still interested in meeting up with other guys, it’s gratifying for me to be a regular PrEP user. It reduces my risk of contracting HIV, allows me to enjoy the pleasure of sex and also to make my sexual partner feel comfortable.

I was introduced to PrEP in 2018 when a guy I was with asked if I’d like to have unprotected sex because he’s on PrEP. I declined because I wasn’t sure if he was being truthful. I was curious, so I enquired, did some research and found Engage Men’s Health clinic in Melville.
I made an appointment, not knowing what to expect and was very nervous. The staff was very inviting and warm. I got my blood taken, got tested and then the sister explained all the benefits of taking the little blue pill. I haven’t looked back since.

I’m very passionate about sex education amongst the MSM community, especially young men who don’t enquire more about safer ways to engage in sexual activity. For the most part, I think social media can be a powerful tool to drive more people to take care of themselves. In today’s society, people spend most of their time on social media that’s where they make friends and find love too.

I feel dating/hookup apps could do more to push for PrEP to be more visible. I like to disclose that I am on PrEP if I’m on a dating site. I’m open about my sexual health and expect someone interested in me or my profile to reciprocate. It’s also a good conversation starter if someone sees I’m on PrEP and doesn’t quite know much about it.

I like to assure people that PrEP is a preventative measure, that it is as easy as taking a pill a day and had almost no side effects. I also inform them that it doesn’t mean you’re HIV positive if you use it, but it’s an additional method of preventing HIV if you are negative. Studies have confirmed a decline in HIV transmission among those who use the magic blue pill.

The key to getting men to utilise this drug is putting the message out there and informing them that it works. Honestly, it’s very hot to meet a guy who cares about himself and his sexual partner(s) and self-care is on the rise amongst all men.

Try to find a connection with your partner or partners and encourage them to be on PrEP too and enjoy ultimate pleasure with a lot less risk.

I still choose to use condoms because I enjoy safe sex and they protect me from other STIs (sexually transmitted infections). For me, PrEP works as an additional preventative method. I haven’t encountered any bad experiences with PrEP. This is a FREE drug that is accessible with guaranteed results – and I’m living proof.

PrEP has been scientifically proven to be over 99% effective at preventing HIV infection. For free PrEP and other sexual health services contact EMH in Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay or Buffalo City on 082 6071686 by either calling or sending a WhatsApp message to make an appointment. For more PrEP information click here

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