Health4Men, an innovative project of the Anova Health Institute, was established in 2008 to take the lead in South Africa’s response to HIV among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM).
In partnership with the Department of Health and funded by PEPFAR through USAID, Health4Men established Africa’s first Centre of Excellence in MSM sexual health, in Cape Town. A second such centre followed, in Johannesburg.
Health4Men has developed extensive expertise in all areas of MSM sexual health, including HIV combination prevention and both STI and HIV treatment, and mental health. Other areas of focus include MSM-focused community outreach models including interactive digital platforms, media production and topical research initiatives.
We are proud of our significant accomplishments, in partnership with the Department of Health. These include the following:
Creating access to MSM competent public health services
With funding from PEPFAR/USAID and the Global Fund, we have trained over 3 000 health workers in the public sector to provide prejudice-free competent services to gay and bisexual men. Nurses and doctors at over 260 clinics, across all provinces, have been mentored by our highly skilled team to ensure that gay and bisexual men receive excellent treatment and care regarding their sexual health, including HIV-related services. We also ensure that gay and bisexual men can find their nearest competent clinic: click here to access this service.
Developing MSM-related knowledge and skill in the private sector
With funding from MAC AIDS, we have launched Health4Men Professional in order to ensure that private doctors have access to the latest information to manage their gay and bisexual patients’ sexual health.
Coordinating and developing MSM-focused community organisations
The Elton John AIDS Foundation supports our work with other organisations providing services to gay, bi and other men who have sex with men, primarily in Gauteng, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. The emphasis is on community-based outreach programmes targeting gay and bisexual men, educating them about sexual health and linking them to competent health services if they need them.
Coordinating the development of a National Strategic Plan on MSM
In partnership with the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), we have been tasked with developing a national plan to address HIV among gay and bisexual men. This complex process entails extensive consultation with role players, demonstrating our prominence and leadership within the HIV field in South Africa.
National HIV prevention campaign
A significant grant from the Elton John AIDS Foundation has allowed us to embark on a bold and innovative national HIV prevention campaign. Launched in June 2015, the We The Brave campaign is aimed at all men who have sex with men in the country – the first such large-scale campaign in Africa. Click here to learn more or to become part of this exciting initiative.
Undertaking MSM surveillance
In January 2015, we initiated a project aimed at surveillance of gay and bisexual men in five provinces in South Africa, namely Gauteng, Western Cape, Free State, Limpopo and North West. The project specifically focuses on men in Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Mafikeng, Polokwane and the Johannesburg metro areas. The objectives of the MSM surveillance project include to:
- to measure the prevalence and incidence of HIV and their associated risk behaviours among men who have sex with men;
- estimate the population size and distribution of such men;
- enhance local capacity to conduct IBBS, mapping, and size estimation among gay and bisexual men;
- identify and assess determinants of access and utilization of health and social welfare programs in South Africa among these men.
The formative assessment phase was completed in April 2015 and the integrated bio-behavioural survey phase commenced in the first week of July. This significant process will be completed in June 2016.
Developing models for community engagement
As of 2009, we have gained significant expertise in developing and implementing innovative community engagement initiatives to reach men who have sex with men, in diverse geographical areas. Most notably, research based on our Ukwazana and Zwakalani models have been published in peer-reviewed journals. In addition we have gained extensive expertise in producing diverse media products promoting men’s sexual health including the use of social platforms (click here to join us on Facebook). We also utilise cell phone technology to reach men who have sex with men, where men can also post anonymous questions to our medical team (click here to post a question).
Developing MSM services elsewhere in Africa
We have undertaken training of health workers from throughout Africa, in association with Amsher. More recently we have focused on developing health services for men who have sex with men in Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Zimbabwe in partnership with The International HIV and AIDS Alliance.
Harm reduction for MSM who use recreational drugs
In partnership with Amsterdam-based Mainline and supported by Aids Fonds, we are proud to have implemented the first comprehensive harm reduction programme in South Africa, targeting recreational substance use among men who have sex. Over the period 2012 to 2014, we disseminated over 45 000 sterile syringes and needles and topical media products, and developed an innovative outreach model to reach drug-using men who have sex with men.
Direct clinical services to MSM
Our expertise is based on our extensive experience in providing direct health services to men who have sex with men, most notably through our two Centres of Excellence in MSM sexual health. Located in Johannesburg and Cape Town, these significant facilities are each supported by satellite sites. Through this network of sites our medical team have provided direct services to over 10 000 men who have sex with men.
Undertaking MSM-focused research
Our dedicated team of health professionals undertake both bio-medical and psychosocial research impacting on health factors impacting on men who have sex with men in South Africa. Such processes have resulted in a significant number of publications in peer-reviewed articles and presentations at both local and international conferences. We are affiliated with the universities of Cape Town, Pretoria and the Witwatersrand. Internationally, we are affiliated with UCSF, UCLA plus Emory and Pittsburgh Universities.
Yellow Dot Doctor:
Yellow Dot Doctors are medical professionals within the Private Sector who are sensitised to sexual health needs of men who have sex with men (MSM).
Men who have sex with other men can have a professional consultation with a Yellow Dot Doctor. They will not have to be weary of being judged and can feel assured that they will be treated with respect and dignity by a professional who understands some of the challenges that life can throw at them.
The Anova Health Institute ensures sensitisation by providing practical guidelines for communicating with gay men and other men who have sex with men on responsible sexual behaviour and HIV prevention and other health factors that are pertinent to them. These medical professionals are then listed on the Yellow Dot Doctor website where they can find the nearest one.