Health4Men, a project of the Anova Health Institute at the forefront of promoting access to competent health services for men who have sex with men (MSM) throughout South Africa, has extended their use of cellular phone technology to reach their target group.
The project already uses such technology as a platform to provide MSM-specific information on HIV prevention and treatment, other sexually transmitted infections and substance abuse, through their h4m.mobisite. The site, launched in 2011, offers MSM the opportunity to pose anonymous questions to Health4Men’s team of doctors and to view responses on their cell phones.
As of today, MSM will be able to use their cell phones to identify and locate their nearest competent clinic through the mobi site. They can do this by simply entering either their street address, village or town on their phone.
With support from PEPFAR and USAID, and more recently the Global Fund, Health4Men is undertaking an intensive programme of sensitising, training and mentoring health workers within the public health sector to render MSM-competent health services without prejudice or stigma. To date, 68 public clinics have been declared MSM-competent across four provinces (Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Western Cape), in both urban and rural settings.
As Health4Men continues training and mentoring health workers in the remaining five provinces, additional competent sites will be announced.
In order to promote awareness of this service Health4Men has partnered with the popular gay website,MambaOnline to feature the search facility on their website.
Professor James McIntyre, CEO of the Anova Health Institute, reinforced the need for innovative responses to the health needs of MSM: “Many of these men do not identify as being either gay or bisexual and therefore don’t access health-related messaging in the gay media. MSM who identify as heterosexual are a particularly challenging grouping to reach and we are increasingly turning to discreet platforms such as cell phones, to provide access to relevant information. While we have developed significant capacity within the public health sector to work with MSM, this latest development will stimulate demand for and ensure access to these services.”
McIntyre added that the recent grant to Anova by the Elton John AIDS Foundation and PEPFAR jointly, will allow for an even greater emphasis on using innovative media platforms such as cell phone technology to promote sexual health among MSM.