South Africa: Public healthcare not designed for MSM people - study

Men who have sex with men suffer from poor mental health, which can lead to them engaging in high-risk behaviour. So says a study by the Human Sciences Research Council.

The study was conducted in South Africa and Namibia and reveals the many factors that contribute to the high risk of HIV for men who have sex with men (MSM).

Lead investigator Heidi van Rooyen said the study was to try and get people to think about treatment and prevention together.

“One of the things we found, that was something we knew but the study confirmed, is the extent to which healthcare spaces are not designed for MSM people.

“Public health facilities are based on a fairly heterosexual gender norm, and MSM face real difficulties in getting healthcare, and that fuelled behaviour. Those spaces are hostile and not friendly and that it might affect their ability to access prevention and treatment facilities.”

Van Rooyen said the poor health among MSM was caused by stress, which lack of access to healthcare forms a part of.

“MSM use defence mechanisms to reduce the pressures they feel, and these are substance abuse, denial and hiding by maintaining a concurrent heterosexual relationship,” she said.

“For the qualitative research, we conducted focus groups discussions with 64 partnered MSM in South Africa and 45 partnered MSM in Namibia. In-depth interviews were conducted with 16 male partnerships in South Africa and 11 male partnerships in Namibia. Read more via IOL