What Men Should Know

Celebrating Nurses Day: Stigma-free care for MSM

With the upscaling of South Africa’s HIV treatment programme necessitating task-shifting and the decentralisation of the South African healthcare system, nurses have become the backbone of public health, with most healthcare service centres being run entirely by nurses, with the support of visiting doctors. 
 
To mark International Nurses Day on 12 May 2014, Anova is celebrating its nurses, and the work it does with nurses in the public health sector through its Health Systems Strengthening activities.
 
A SPECIALIST MSM NURSE MAKING A DIFFERENCE:
Nthato Ramushu is proud to be part of what he calls “one of the noblest professions”, which he traces back to Florence Nightingale and Mother Teresa.
 
But unlike nurses of the past, Ramushu works under exceedingly complex conditions, where super viruses and sex collide; painting an unprecedented picture.
 
In a context where HIV, other STIs and their unique impact on men who have sex with men (MSM) is finally being recognised and addressed, Ramushu is a new breed of nurse – an MSM competent healthcare worker.
 
As an enrolled nurse working at Health4Men’s site based at Chiawelo Clinic in Soweto, Ramushu is the first face that clients see and he always ensures that it is a friendly, understanding and unintimidating one.
 
“My job is to triage all the clients that come through the clinic doors and ensure that they are prepared to see either the Primary Healthcare Care (PHC) nurse or the doctor.” As the first link in the chain of care Ramushu smoothes the way for his clients, ensuring that blood is collected and analysed and that the results are readily available for healthcare workers higher up the referral chain.
 
However, the most remarkable thing about Ramushu’s role is that, as an MSM-competent healthcare worker, he is integral in providing MSM who come into the clinic with a stigma-free healthcare experience.
 
Ramushu is one of many healthcare workers who have received sensitivity training through Health4Men, enabling him to provide MSM-friendly services. And while these services may seem small in the broader chain of treatment and care, in reality they could be the difference between life and death.
 
Ramushu is sensitive to his MSM clients’ needs, making them feel relaxed at the Health4Men sites, so they can feel free to give intimate details that allow the staff to provide the best possible care: “Many MSM do not openly declare risky sexual practices for fear of discrimination. As an MSM-competent enrolled nurse it is my job to get to the crux of the matter through taking a sexual history, without making the client feel uncomfortable, intimidated or compromised.”
 
Ramushu knows only too well that prejudice and discrimination directed at MSM is prevalent in South Africa’s healthcare system and can have devastating effects: “MSM are often afraid to seek healthcare because they are worried about being judged. This means that MSM often fall through the cracks in our healthcare system, missing out on the specialised care they need. This obviously has serious consequences for their health because HIV and other STIs go untreated.”
 
Source Anova Health Institute

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