Indigenous men benefit from “culturally safe” sexual health services

Conversations about sexual health are often lacking in medical consultations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, but making health services “culturally safe” could change that, according to a letter to the editor in this week’s Medical Journal of Australia.

Authors Dr Mark Wenitong, Dr Michael Adams and Dr Carol Holden argue that there are many factors influencing health service access and help-seeking behavior for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men, particularly when it comes to discussing sexual issues.

These include societal concerns such as illness related stigma and sex-specific differences in health, as well as cultural—for example traditional gender related lore, masculinity and gender roles.

The authors argue cultural competency training is essential to overcome barriers affecting how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men access health services, and they suggest some culturally appropriate strategies for discussing sexual health issues.

Dr Mark Wenitong

Dr Mark Wenitong

“It is very important to provide a safe, private and comfortable environment that supports open and free dialogue,” lead author Dr Mark Wenitong said.

“Men may not open up in the first consultation—it takes time to build trust and respect. It can be helpful to make the clinic conducive to talking about sensitive issues, for example a model of the male pelvis in the consulting room might help initiate discussions about sexual health.”

The authors’ work has been supported by the Andrology Australia Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Male Health Reference group.

Andrology Australia—the country’s peak authority on male reproductive health—recently produced an education DVD for health professionals titled A lot of Aboriginal men sort of keep it to themselves.

The DVD provides interviews with health professionals and tips for how to initiate dialogue and engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men about reproductive health.

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