Pubic lice

If you have pubic lice (or genital crabs), don’t feel alarmed or ashamed. Many people get crabs and while they can be annoying and cause discomfort, it’s easy to treat them.

What are pubic lice (crabs)?

Pubic lice are tiny insects (2mm long) and grey-brown in colour. They can be hard to spot, but sometimes you may be able to see them in your hair. They most often live on pubic hair around the penis or vagina but can also be found in hair on the chest, armpits, face, and eyelashes. They do not affect hair on the head.

What are the symptoms of pubic lice?

  • Intense itching, which is usually worse at night
  • Small red or blue spots on your skin (lice bites)
  • White/yellow dots attached to your hair (lice eggs)
  • Dark red or brown spots in your underwear (lice poop)
  • Crusted or sticky eyelashes, if eyelashes are affected

How do you get crabs?

You can get genital crabs through close contact with another person, such as during sex.

Are pubic lice an STI?

Pubic lice often get lumped in with sexually transmitted infections (STIs). That’s because people get pubic lice most often during sex. But pubic lice aren’t an actual disease or infection.

How do you treat pubic lice?

Crabs can cause intense itching but are treatable. Pubic lice treatment usually involves special shampoos or creams to kill the lice.

Who is most at risk of pubic lice?

Pubic lice are usually spread through sexual contact and are most common in sexually active teens and people in their 20s. Having multiple sexual partners increases the chances of getting crabs. It’s important to note that people who have other sexually transmitted infections are at higher risk for pubic lice.

Does PrEP or condoms protect against crabs?

PrEP or condoms do not protect against pubic lice.

Should my sex partner(s) get treated for crabs?

Get in touch with your sexual partner(s) from the previous two months. They may have pubic lice too and will need treatment.

Does shaving get rid of crabs?

No, shaving your pubic area with a razor isn’t a treatment to get rid of crabs.

Does rubbing alcohol kill pubic lice?

You shouldn’t attempt to use rubbing alcohol to kill pubic lice. This may be effective in adult lice, but it’s not effective against nits or eggs. You should only use the medications your healthcare provider recommends.

How can I prevent genital crabs?

The only way to prevent pubic lice is to avoid any close physical contact with people who have it. Still, you can take reasonable steps to lower your risk for crabs and prevent them from coming back:


  • Avoid sharing personal items like clothes or towels.
  • Use pubic lice treatment which usually involves special creams or shampoos to kill the lice. After treatment, make sure to comb any nits (eggs) out of your hair.
  • Make sure your partner(s) get treated if you had pubic lice.
  • Wash clothing, bedding, and towels in hot water.
  • Finish treatment and check that the crabs are gone before resuming sex.


  • Have sex or close physical contact with someone who has pubic lice.
  • Share clothing, bedding, or towels with a person who has pubic lice.
  • Use insecticide sprays. They don’t control pubic lice and can be harmful to you.
  • Try on bathing suits when shopping. If you do try them on, wear underwear.

Can I use pubic lice shampoo preventively?

Perhaps you found out that a sexual partner from the past month has pubic lice. It’s fine to use one of the lice shampoos or creams before you have symptoms to be safe.

Will frequent showers prevent pubic lice?

Getting pubic lice has nothing to do with your hygiene. You get pubic lice by having close physical contact with a person who has them.

Are pubic lice dangerous?

No, pubic lice won’t cause serious health concerns. Usually, the main problems that the lice cause are itching and discomfort. You may get a bacterial infection if you end up scratching your skin a lot.

How long does it take to get rid of pubic lice?

Most treatments take about two weeks. If the lice don’t go away completely, you may need to repeat treatment.

Can I get pubic lice more than once?

Yes, you can get pubic lice again. Take steps to prevent pubic lice so you don’t get them again.

When can I resume sex?

Pause your sex life until both you and your partner(s) have finished treatment. Check that the lice haven’t returned. This could take about two weeks.

When should I see a healthcare provider?

In most cases, over-the-counter treatment from your pharmacy is effective in killing the lice. If this doesn’t work, contact a healthcare provider who may need to prescribe a stronger medication.

Does EMH prescribe treatment for pubic lice?

No, EMH does not. But you can get over-the-counter treatment without a doctor’s prescription from any Dischem, Clicks, or other pharmacy.


Engage Men’s Health offers free and friendly sexual health services to gay, bi and other men who have sex with men in Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City. Our services include HIV testing, treatment of HIV and other STIs, PrEP, PEP, and HIV self-testing kits. For more information or to book an appointment call/WhatsApp 082 607 1686.

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In addition to the challenges that the general population face, members of the LGBTQ+ community are burdened with experiences related to stigma, marginalisation, and discrimination. These factors make mental health challenges at least twice as likely for this population.

Traumatic experiences and emotional pain from the past can significantly impact our current state of mind without us always being aware of it. These can manifest in various ways, and it is not always easy to recognise the symptoms. However, it is crucial to address mental health challenges as they can significantly impact your quality of life. So, how do you know if you have mental health issues that need to be addressed?

Here are some signs that may indicate you have mental health issues:

  1. Persistent sadness or anxiety
    If you experience persistent feelings of sadness or anxiety, it may be a sign of a mental health problem. These emotions can interfere with your daily activities, such as work,
    school, or relationships.
  1. Social withdrawal
    If you find yourself withdrawing from social activities that you once enjoyed, it may be a sign of a mental health issue. Social withdrawal can be a symptom of depression or anxiety, and it can worsen the condition if left unaddressed.
  2. Poor concentration
    If you struggle to concentrate or have difficulty completing tasks, it may be a sign of a mental health problem. Poor concentration can be a symptom of various conditions such as ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), depression, or anxiety.
  3. Sleep disturbances
    Sleep disturbances such as insomnia (difficulty sleeping) or oversleeping can be a sign of a mental health issue. These problems can cause fatigue, irritability, and difficulty functioning during the day.
  4. Mood swings
    If you experience sudden and extreme changes in mood, it may be a sign of a mental health problem. These changes can be severe and disruptive to your daily life.
  5. Substance abuse
    If you turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with stress or emotions, it may be a sign of a mental health problem. Substance abuse can worsen the symptoms of an existing condition and can lead to addiction.
  6. Physical symptoms
    Physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach problems, and chronic pain can be a sign of a mental health issue. These symptoms should also be addressed by your doctor or health care provider, but they can often be triggered by stress or anxiety.
  7. Unusual behaviour
    If you engage in unusual behaviour or find yourself doing things that are out of character, it may be a sign of a mental health problem. These behaviours can be a symptom of a variety of conditions such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
  8. Thoughts of self-harm
    If you experience thoughts of self-harm or suicide, it is crucial to seek help immediately. These thoughts are a sign of a mental health problem and require immediate attention.
  9. Difficulty coping with stress
    If you find it challenging to cope with stress, it may be a sign of a mental health issue. Coping mechanisms such as self-care or therapy can help you manage stress and improve your mental health.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is essential to consult a counsellor, mental health professional, or at the very least talk about it with someone you trust.

Having mental health difficulties is nothing to be ashamed of; many of us experience some of these challenges at least once in our lives. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and taking care of your mental health is essential for overall well-being.



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Despite significant advances in HIV treatment and prevention, some men still lack knowledge about HIV, perpetuate HIV stigma, and shame those who take care of their sexual health. This may be due to their lack of exposure to relevant and current information, having incorrect information, or fear.

There are a few key points to consider about PrEP, ARVs, and HIV risk.

  • PrEP is a daily pill that has been proven to be up to 99.9% effective in preventing HIV transmission when taken as prescribed. This is important because research has shown that men do not always use condoms consistently, even when not using any other HIV protection method.
  • Although slut-shaming men on PrEP was more common when it first became available, it still occurs today. When a man mentions that he is on PrEP, other men may assume that he is promiscuous or engaging in risky sexual behaviour. This stigma is similar to the shame that women may face for using birth control.
  • Most HIV infections occur when men do not know their own HIV status, assume that their sexual partner is negative, or take someone’s word for it when they say they are negative. Statements such as “I’m clean, you be too,” “Neg4Neg,” “Disease-free,” or “Sorry, no poz guys” are common and reflect the stigma surrounding those living with HIV. They also indicate ignorance about the reality of dating HIV-positive men.
  • The U=U campaign is an international effort to raise awareness about the benefits of ARVs. U=U stands for “Undetectable = Untransmittable,” meaning that an HIV-positive person on ARVs who has an undetectable HIV viral load cannot transmit HIV, even without using condoms.
  • A person living with HIV is considered to have an “undetectable” viral load when ARV treatment has brought the level of the virus in their body to such low levels that blood tests cannot detect it. Scientists have proved that someone who is HIV-positive with an undetectable viral load because of treatment cannot transmit the virus during sex to their partners.

It is important to avoid judgment and prejudice rooted in ignorance, which are always unattractive qualities in a man. Men who take ARVs and PrEP are more likely to be informed and in control of their sexual health, which means that their HIV risk is lower than those who are uninformed or unaware of their HIV status. Let’s recognise and celebrate men who take care of their sexual health and that of their partners. What a man!

Engage Men’s Health offers free and friendly sexual health services to gay, bi and other men who have sex with men.
Our services include:
* HIV testing   
* Treatment of HIV and other STIs
* PrEP               
* HIV self-testing kits
For more information or to book an appointment call/WhatsApp 082 607 1686. 


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MSM: The low-down on the down-low

The term “men who have sex with men,” or MSM, can be confusing, as is the idea that a man can identify as straight but still have sexual contact with men. So, what does it mean and why is it used?

The term MSM originated in the 1980s in the context of efforts to understand men’s sexual behaviour as it relates to HIV transmission and prevention.

Experts in the HIV field recognised that not all men who engage sexually with other men identify as gay or bisexual. This made it difficult for their HIV prevention and treatment messaging to reach all those men who may be at higher risk of HIV.

Because some MSM don’t identify as gay they might not read or watch sexual health material about safer sexual practices between gay men because they don’t think it’s for them.

Another concern was that some MSM who are married to women have unprotected sex with men in secret and then also have unprotected sex with their wives, which puts these women at high risk of getting infected with HIV.

It’s important to reach all MSM because the risk of HIV during unprotected anal sex is as much as 18 times greater than vaginal intercourse. The reasons for the increased risk include factors such as:

  • The fragility of rectal tissues, which allow the virus direct access into the bloodstream through tiny tears or abrasions
  • The porousness of rectal tissues, providing access even when undamaged
  • The high concentration of HIV in semen and pre-seminal fluid if someone is not on HIV treatment

The term MSM was thus created to encompass all men who have sex with men. The idea was to separate sexual behaviour from sexual identity and to reduce the potential stigma that is associated with gay identity in some communities and regions.

This means that gay or bisexual men are MSM but not all MSM are gay or bisexual. MSM refers to a wide range of groups of men that include:

  • Self-identified gay, bisexual, pansexual, queer and sexually fluid men
  • Self-identified heterosexual men who engage in voluntary sex with other men in prison
  • Self-identified heterosexual men who engage in sex with other men as a means of survival in prison
  •  Men who have sex with men but have limited or no romantic feelings towards their male partners
  • Men who have sex with men for economic gains like some sex workers or porn stars
  • men who have sex with cisgender or transgender women but also have sex with men
  • Men who self-identify as “same-gender loving” and men who self-identify as “questioning”
  • Men who “experiment” sexually with other men, even if occasionally
  • Closeted men who don’t or can’t come out due to reasons like religion, culture or familial pressures, known by terms like After-9s or men on the “down-low”

Prevention strategies that target people based on “what you do” rather than “who you are” are more likely to reach more people who may be affected by a public health concern. They offer a larger number of men the opportunity to understand their risk and take the steps necessary for protection or treatment.

However, you may fit into the MSM category, it’s important to address your sexual health needs with health providers who are stigma and shame-free. Your sexual health is important, not only for you, but also for your partners and the community at large.

Engage Men’s Health offers free and confidential sexual health services to gay, bisexual and other MSM in Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City. We welcome all men who have sex with men – whether you are gay, bi, sexually fluid or straight, out or in the closet – without stigma or shame. What’s important to us is providing a safe environment where you can be yourself.

For more information, to discuss your sexual health needs or to make an appointment, call or WhatsApp 082 607 1686.

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As humans, we all have an innate need for social connection and companionship. However, for gay, bi and other men who have sex with men (MSM), this need can often go unfulfilled, leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation. The reasons for this are complex and multifaceted.

Even though society has come a long way in terms of accepting same-sex sexuality and relationships, there are still pockets of discrimination and stigmatisation. These attitudes can manifest themselves in various ways, such as hate crimes, bullying, and harassment, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation. These negative attitudes can also create barriers when trying to establish relationships, whether they are romantic, platonic, or familial.

Another reason why gay, bisexual, and other MSM can feel lonely is due to the complexities within these communities. Most MSM have experienced rejection and discrimination at some point in their lives, but for some of us, this experience can cause us to fear meeting new people or forming new relationships. This fear of rejection is particularly potent on gay dating or hook-up apps and sites.

Gay culture has often had a bad reputation for being superficial and materialistic. Though this is a stereotype, there are some truths to this. There are broadly three types of gay or MSM that are seen to have currency when it comes to desirability and status.

  • Youth, fame or beauty: These guys often have more social value.
  • Bodliness: A muscled body has more social power and a big penis is objectified as masculine.
  • Materialism. The more money, the higher the social status.

Some men can be relentless in their pursuit of a man that lives up to one or more of these attributes. This is pretty evident in how some of us conduct ourselves online on apps like Grindr where our interactions can be rude, insensitive, or vicious to those that do not sufficiently meet our ideal “standards”.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with casual sex, the focus on physical pleasure rather than emotional connection can leave some gay and MSM feeling empty and unfulfilled. This can lead to a sense of disconnection from others, and a reluctance to seek out deeper connections for fear of being rejected or judged. This fear can lead to avoidance of social situations and isolation.

Past traumas can also contribute to feelings of loneliness and isolation among gay and MSM. Many of us may have experienced trauma, such as physical or emotional abuse, from family members, past relationships, or bad hook-up experiences. These experiences can leave a lasting impact and lead to feelings of mistrust and fear, making it challenging to form new relationships.

Negative self-talk or low self-esteem are other factors that can contribute to loneliness and isolation among gay and MSM. It is not uncommon for us to internalise negative societal attitudes and stigmatisation, which is called internalised homophobia. This can lead to feelings of self-doubt and low self-esteem. This negative self-talk can also manifest itself in a reluctance to form new relationships and the belief that we are not worthy of love or feeling that we are not desirable.

Loneliness and isolation can have a significant impact on health and mental well-being. When we are socially isolated, we may be less likely to engage in healthy behaviours like exercise, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep. This can increase our risk of developing chronic health conditions. Social connection and support have been shown to play a vital role in maintaining a healthy immune system.

The Harvard Study of Adult Development is one of the longest and most comprehensive studies of adult life ever conducted. The study has been tracking the lives of 796 participants for over 80 years.

Findings from the study show that people who are more socially connected live longer and have better health outcomes than those who are less connected. It’s not just about the number of relationships, but the quality. The study found that people who had strong, supportive relationships with their spouses, family, and friends tended to be happier, healthier, and even live longer than those who didn’t.

Loneliness is associated with an increased risk for various health problems, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity diabetes, and depression. It has been linked to depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation and can be as damaging to our health as smoking and obesity. Isolation and loneliness can also impact on sleep quality and may increase the risk of developing dementia and other cognitive impairments in later life.

Here are a few things you can consider for combating loneliness and isolation:

  • Build a support system. This can include friends, family, and supportive organisations or groups. Creating a support system can help alleviate feelings of loneliness and provide a sense of belonging.
  • Engaging in activities that promote social interaction can also help combat loneliness and isolation. This can include joining a social group like movie groups or dog walking, volunteering, or attending social events or gatherings.
  • Therapy or going for counselling can also be an effective way to address loneliness and isolation. This can be beneficial to work through past traumas, negative self-talk, and fear of rejection.
  • Practice self-care. People who isolate themselves often stop looking after their appearance and making an effort to look good or presentable. Taking care of yourself physically and emotionally can help you feel more confident and resilient. This can include getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and engaging in activities that bring you joy.
  • Connect with others online. The internet can be a great tool for building connections with others, especially during times when it may be difficult to meet in person. Consider joining online forums or social media groups for LGBTQ+ individuals.
  • Reconnect with old friends you haven’t spoken to for ages or have neglected.

Remember, it’s okay to feel lonely sometimes. It’s a natural human emotion that we all experience at one point or another. However, if you find yourself consistently feeling isolated and disconnected from others, it’s important to take steps to address these feelings. By seeking out community, practising self-care, and connecting with others online or in person, you can build the support system you need to live a happy, healthier life.



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Festive season greetings and closing period

OUT LGBT Well-Being, Engage Men’s Health and our related services are taking a break for the festive season from Thursday 15 December 2022 until Tuesday 3 January 2023 (except the EMH office in NMB which will open on Monday 9 January 2023).

We wish our clients, funders, partners, friends and their loved ones a wonderful holiday season and a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year ahead.

  • Should you have an emergency, such as needing urgent PEP, please go to your local clinic or Dischem pharmacy.
  • If you need urgent counselling while we are closed, please contact LifeLine’s 24-Hour Counselling Line on 0861 322 322.
  • To reach the Suicide Crisis Helpline contact 0800 567 567 or the South African Depression and Anxiety Group’s Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 456 789.
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Monkeypox: Frequently Asked Questions

The news that a South African man has been diagnosed with monkeypox led to much confusion, misinformation and stigmatisation on social media. To set things straight, here is everything you need to know about monkeypox, including the symptoms and how it’s spread.

1. What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is caused by infection with the monkeypox virus, which is one of the more than 80 poxviruses known to science. The virus is harboured by different animal species and may spill over to people when there is sufficient exposure.

2. Where does monkeypox occur?

Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 in Denmark when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research, hence the name ‘monkeypox.’ The first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Monkeypox is endemic (or naturally occurring) in countries in central and western Africa. This is attributed to the fact that it is naturally harboured by animals that are found in this part of Africa. Monkeypox infections in humans occur in these countries although at a relatively low level.

3. How common is monkeypox among people outside of central and western Africa?

There was an outbreak in the US in 2003 related to the exotic pet trade. In addition, cases of monkeypox have been reported in Israel, Singapore and the United Kingdom. On 13th May 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO) was notified of two laboratory-confirmed cases and one probable case of monkeypox, from the same household, in the United Kingdom. Since then the disease has been detected in several European countries, the USA and Australia. On 22 June 2022, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) confirmed that a 30-year-old man living in Gauteng, South Africa was infected with the virus.

4. How is the monkeypox virus transmitted?

Monkeypox virus can be transmitted to a person upon contact with the virus from an animal, human, or materials contaminated with the virus. Entry of the virus is through broken skin, respiratory tract, or the mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth). Persons are most likely to be exposed to monkeypox through contact with an individual that is already sick with monkeypox. Person-to-person transmission involves close contact with an infected person or materials that have been contaminated by an infected person.

5. Are gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men (MSM) more at risk of monkeypox?

While several cases in the latest outbreak of monkeypox were diagnosed among men who have sex with men (MSM), anyone, no matter their sexuality, is equally vulnerable to monkeypox if they have had close contact with someone infected with the virus. Health experts and organisations have condemned any efforts to blame, shame or stigmatise MSM concerning the monkeypox virus.

6. Can you get monkeypox from sex?

Even though it is not considered a sexually transmitted infection (i.e. it doesn’t only spread through contact with bodily fluids, but also through contact with the skin rash), monkeypox can spread during intimate physical contact between people. This contact can happen when you have sex, including:

  • Oral, anal, and vaginal sex, or touching the genitals or anus of a person with monkeypox
  • Hugging, massage, kissing or talking closely
  • Touching fabrics, shared surfaces, and objects, such as bedding, towels and sex toys, that were used by a person with monkeypox

Anyone – regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation – can catch monkeypox if they have close contact with someone infected with the virus.

7. What are the signs and symptoms of monkeypox?

The incubation period (time from infection to symptoms) for monkeypox is on average 7−14 days but can range from 5−21 days. Initial symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, chills and exhaustion. Within 1-3 days of onset of disease, blister-like lesions (a rash or sores, pimples or blisters) – very much the same as chickenpox – will develop on the face and the extremities, including the soles of the feet and palms of the hands. The lesions may however occur on other parts of the body. The number of lesions will vary and not all lesions will be at the same stage of development. The lesions progress through several stages before scabbing over and resolving. Most cases resolve within 2-3 weeks of onset without side effects. It’s very rare for someone to die from monkeypox, but children, pregnant women, and individuals that are immunocompromised are most at risk.

8. When is a monkeypox-infected person no longer contagious?

An infected person is contagious from the onset of the rash/lesions through the scab stage. Once all scabs have fallen off, a person is no longer contagious.

9. How is monkeypox diagnosed?

Monkeypox is diagnosed by a healthcare worker. The rash would be the most telling sign. However, many other diseases, such as chickenpox, may cause similar rashes and are more common. Samples can be tested at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases to confirm a diagnosis of monkeypox.

10. How is monkeypox treated?

Most human cases of monkeypox virus infection do not require any specific treatment and the disease resolves on its own. There are anti-viral drugs that a clinician may consider using for the treatment of more severe cases of monkeypox on a case-by-case basis.

11. How can monkeypox be prevented?

The spread of monkeypox can be stopped by tracing the people that an infected person has been in contact with.  Anyone that develops the disease should isolate to avoid spreading it.

12. What should you do if you think you have monkeypox?

It is important to seek medical attention promptly if you are suffering from a rash and you think you may have monkeypox. There are many other causes of rash, many of which can be treated and any discomfort or pain you may be experiencing may be addressed. It is also important to diagnose monkeypox promptly to aid in the efforts to contain the transmission of the virus and avoid more cases from occurring.

13. Where can I find more information?

  • Guidelines and other useful resources are available on the NICD website.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA, website.
  • The World Health Organization website.

Source: National Institute for Communicable Diseases

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EMH & OUT warn against LGBTIQ+ stigma linked to monkeypox outbreak

While the international monkeypox outbreak has yet to reach South Africa, OUT LGBT Well-being and its MSM programme Engage Men’s Health are concerned that the disease is being used to stigmatise gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM).

As reported in the media, several cases of monkeypox have been identified among MSM in Europe, in some instances through sexual health clinics. This has led to sensationalistic claims on social media that the disease is being spread by MSM, which has been used to target members of this community.

Monkeypox, however, can affect anyone. “It is important to note that the risk of monkeypox is not limited to men who have sex with men. Anyone who has close contact with someone who is infectious is at risk,” states the World Health Organization (WHO).

“We have seen this before, where gay and bisexual men were shamed, stigmatised and shunned in the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States,” says Dawie Nel, Director of OUT LGBT Well-being. “This cannot be allowed to happen again. The outbreak of a disease should never be accompanied by judgement and condemnation but rather with compassion and the sharing of medical facts.”

The WHO believes that one of the reasons that cases of monkeypox have been reported via sexual health clinics for MSM may be “because of positive health-seeking behaviour in this demographic”.

Caused by the monkeypox virus, monkeypox is a disease most commonly found in Central and West Africa and is often caught from infected animals. The latest outbreak, however, is taking place in several countries that do not usually have cases.

According to the WHO, symptoms of monkeypox typically include fever, intense headache, muscle aches, back pain, low energy, swollen lymph nodes and a skin rash or sores. It can be spread through rashes, lesions, bodily fluids or items that come into contact with an infected person. Monkeypox rashes can resemble sexually transmitted diseases such as herpes and syphilis.

Symptoms typically last between two to four weeks and go away on their own without treatment. In some individuals, they can lead to medical complications and rarely death. People with underlying immune deficiencies may be at risk of more serious symptoms. At the time of writing, there were over 600 confirmed cases (Source: Our World in Data) around the world, with none in South Africa.

“OUT urges members of MSM and LGBTIQ+ communities and broader society to inform themselves about monkeypox and its symptoms and to be vigilant but not to panic. It further calls for rational and informed discourse on media platforms without the blaming or shaming of any community,” says Nel.

OUT will continue to monitor the situation in South Africa and will offer further advice should the need arise.

For more information and updates about monkeypox please visit these reputable sources:

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OUT urges queer dating app victims to come forward

OUT LGBT Well-being is alarmed at ongoing reports that gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) are falling prey to kidnappers and extortionists on dating and networking apps.

As reported by eNCA’s Checkpoint and MambaOnline.com, numerous men in Johannesburg have been lured, via apps like Grindr, to meeting a date. They are instead held hostage and threatened with death until a large ransom is paid by the victim or their friends or family. It’s believed that many incidents go unreported, and the police have seemingly failed to take decisive action.

“While our laws are progressive, South Africa remains a socially conservative country with same-sex sexuality still frowned upon. Networking apps are often the only way that some queer men feel they can meet other men,” says Lerato Phalakatshela, OUT’s Human Rights Manager.

“Stigma, shame and fear of secondary victimisation are among the reasons why victims do not come forward,” he adds. “They may fear being outed, feel embarrassed or that they won’t be taken seriously, and might even blame themselves for becoming a victim.”

Online networking apps are intended to be a safer way for gay, bi and MSM to meet, especially if they feel that they cannot be open about their sexuality. However, these services are now being used to target this vulnerable group.

“The police need to up their game and take the seemingly rampant kidnapping and extortion of gay, bi and MSM seriously. They cannot simply stand by and do nothing. Dating apps also need to be willing to work with the local authorities and provide better protection to their users,” says Phalakatshela.

OUT urges victims of these attacks to contact the organisation’s LGBTQ+ Legal Clinic for assistance. They are assured that their details will not be divulged without their permission. OUT will link the victims to confidential psychosocial support and offer advice if they wish to lay charges or take the matter further.

“We understand that some victims will not want to be open about what may have happened and we will protect their privacy. They, however, may still need support such as counselling and might want to know what their legal options are,” says Phalakatshela. “And we can assist them with this.”

To contact OUT’s free LGBTQ+ Legal clinic, victims can email report@lovenothate.org.za or call 012 430 3272 and ask for the legal clinic.

OUT has also published a series of online dating safety tips for gay, bi and MSM which can be found here: https://bit.ly/3srQs56

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STIs may often go undiagnosed among MSM

A new study among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Johannesburg reaffirms that current approaches to sexually transmitted infections (or STIs) may be failing to adequately diagnose these infections in this often neglected group.

The pilot study was conducted by the STI Reference Laboratory of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases of South Africa (NICD) and OUT’s Engage Men’s Health project, which provides free sexual health services to MSM.

An STI is an infection transmitted through sexual contact, caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites. There is growing concern around the world that some STIs are becoming resistant to treatment.

As there is limited data on STIs from MSM in South Africa, the study sought to determine the feasibility of implementing a large scale surveillance study and determine the burden of STIs at extra-genital (oropharynx and rectum) sites.

In addition, the study sought to assess if there are signs in South African MSM communities of Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV), caused by specific invasive serovars of Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria, which has resurged among MSM in Western Europe and the USA.

Conducted at the Engage Men’s Health clinic in Johannesburg between 15 November and 3 December 2021, 42 adult at-risk MSM agreed to participate in the study. While in South Africa STIs are typically tested for and treated when a patient presents with symptoms, none of the men reported or showed any urethral symptoms.

The results revealed that, despite having no symptoms, almost one-fifth of the men had STIs in their rectal and/or pharyngeal specimens. Approximately a third of men showed evidence of exposure to syphilis with almost a quarter having active syphilis. Notably, the presence of LGV among MSM in South Africa was confirmed.

“It’s clear that while HIV has dominated the MSM sexual health arena, other STIs cannot be ignored within this group,” says OUT Director Dawie Nel. “We believe that protocols for STI testing and treatment must be more inclusive of MSM, and that these individuals be encouraged to regularly screen and test for STIs.”

NICD senior medical scientist, Dr Bianca Da Costa Dias, added: “In the future, we hope to establish long term STI surveillance in the MSM population and to use this data to formulate STI screening and treatment guidelines for at-risk MSM in South Africa.”

The NICD and Engage Men’s Health are currently conducting a larger follow-up study of 100 MSM individuals.

Engage Men’s Health offers free STI testing/screening and/or treatment to gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in the Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City metros. Email, call or WhatsApp us on 082 607 1686.

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