Cape Town based Health4Men has announced a number of new initiatives for gay and bisexual men over the holiday season.

The non-profit organisation, which offers free sexual health services, works in partnership with the Western Cape Department of Health and targets men at higher risk of HIV infection including gay-identifying men and other men who have sex with other men, male commercial sex workers and male intravenous drug users.

Health4Men’s new initiatives, announced on Monday, include: promoting responsible sex in gay venues in the in the build-up to the 2010 World Cup; extending its service hours during the holiday and tourist season and; hosting a seminar on drug and alcohol abuse within the gay community.

The organisation will make free condoms and lubricant sachets, as well as fact sheets, posters and public health notices, available to gay venues such as clubs, bars, taverns, guest houses and sex venues.

“The gay business sector needs to assume more responsibility for helping us address HIV in the community. It is no longer acceptable that, in the light of the prevalent HIV pandemic and gay men being at particular risk of infection, gay venues refuse to promote responsible sex. Responsible sex messaging needs to be made prominently visible and available, along with condoms and water-based lubricants”, says Glenn de Swardt, Health4Men’s psychosocial manager.

He explained that an inconsistent supply of condoms, often relegated to the toilet, were unacceptable: “Gay venues are playing a significant role in perpetuating the collective denial of HIV and need to be held accountable for their attitudes. They’re very happy to accept ‘pink money’ from patrons, but they also need to start looking after their patrons’ best interests. They could be making a significant difference.”

The organisation has initiated an annual award for the gay venue that is most pro-active in promoting responsible sex. Representatives of the gay business sector will be invited to attend a briefing meeting to explain the campaign.

In order to provide increased access to HIV screening during the December and January season in Cape Town, characterised by a marked increase in visitors to the city, the Health4Men Greenpoint office will remain open until 8:00 pm, Monday to Friday. The venue will also offer services between 10:00 am and 12:30 pm on Saturdays and between 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm on Sundays.

The Green Point venue is located in the heart of Cape Town’s “gay village” precinct and is specifically targeting gay and bisexual men for HIV-related screening and PEP (post exposure prophylaxisis) in the event of high-risk exposure to HIV infection.

“We are confident that the gay community will welcome these extended service hours”, said de Swardt. He noted that if someone does screen positive for HIV, free medical management and treatment are provided by the organisation, including free CD4 counts and ARV treatment as needed.

Both the Green Point office and the Ivan Toms Centre for Men’s Health will remain fully functional during the festive season, only closing on official public holidays.

On Wednesday 9 December, Health4Men will host its seminar tackling the high levels of recreational drug and alcohol abuse among Cape Town’s gay and bisexual male community at 7:00 pm at Health4Men’s seminar venue, 24 Napier Street (top floor), De Waterkant.

Participants will include the Medical Research Council, the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre, the Department of Psychiatry at Groote Schuur Hospital and the Health4Men team. The panel will address the abuse of substances such as crystal methamphetamine, and their impact on HIV and other STIs.

Get the Mamba Newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend