BULAWAYO, ZIMBABWE - The provision of adequate information and training to health personnel on issues related to Men who have Sex with other Men (MSM) is an integral component in ensuring that their right to the highest attainable standards of sexual and reproductive health care services is upheld.
Registered General Nurses (RGN) and counselors from Mpilo Central Hospital who attended a one-day training workshop organised by the Sexual Rights Centre to empower them with skills and knowledge on providing comprehensive services to MSM expressed these sentiments.
Mpilo Central Hospital is a Government institution in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city.
The workshop for nurses and counselors was organised following another workshop conducted by the Sexual Rights Centre that targeted MSM in 2009. In that workshop, MSM pointed out that they faced a plethora of challenges from the medical fraternity which include unprofessional conduct by nurses who discuss confidential information with other nurses, rude and arrogant conduct, imposing religious values aimed at changing their sexual preferences and poor or denial of services.
Nurses and counselors explored the advantages and disadvantages of providing sexual and reproductive health services to MSM. The advantages noted included stigma reduction, reduction in the spread of STIs including HIV and improve their self esteem. The disadvantage noted included conflict among medical practitioners who have not yet accepted MSM.
The provision of services to MSM at hospitals was also discussed with participants saying that there was need to train health personnel nationally so that they accept MSM, develop Information, Education and Communication (IEC) material on MSM and train MSM as peer educators and counselors. Participants also noted that there was a need to provide the same training to spiritual and religious leaders so that discrimination and stigma against MSM is reduced.
The workshop which was held on 09 January 2010 was attended by 15 nurses and counselors. Some MSM also attended the workshop and assisted in the facilitation.