My name is Malibongwe Daweti and I am 42 years old. I come from Idutywa in Xauka, Eastern Cape and I work as a community coordinator for Health Systems Trust in the OR Tambo and Chris Hani districts.
Working in HIV prevention and treatment, we are aware that there is a large at-risk group that many people don’t like to talk about. This group is men who have sex with men, also known as “MSM”.
It is important to note that this is not the same as being gay. A gay man self-identifies as such and is “out” about his sexuality. A man who has sex with men does it “on the down low”, considers himself heterosexual and is often married with children.
The root cause of this is stigma about homosexuality which means these men will not disclose this, and often will not even do so with health professionals.
Many MSM have multiple partners or pay for sex with younger men. Because this behaviour is secretive they are often unprepared and so do not use protection – and the reality is that anal sex is a high risk factor in terms of becoming infected with HIV.
Stigma drives this issue underground.
We say that homosexuality is a foreign concept that arrived here in a ship, but we must also note that amagoduka (migrant workers) used to have such relationships in single-sex hostels, so it has been there for quite some time.
If a man does not want to tell people his sexual preference, that is up to him. But as a man you must be brave enough to protect your family, your loved ones and yourself. If you don’t want to disclose, then that is fine – but make sure you test and have safe sex.
To find out more about testing, counselling and treatment please go to http://betteroffknowing.org.za/