Hon. Minister of Health, Sen. Lizzy Nkosi
Hhohho RA, Her Royal Highness, Princess Tsandzile
Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health
Multi-lateral and bi-lateral donors
Members of the press
Directors of Implementing Partner Organisations
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a pleasure and an honour for me to be part of this important event – the launch of the 2020 Men’s Health Month and the official commissioning of the Mbabane Male Wellness Clinic.
Honourable Minister, the timing of this event is particularly relevant as it comes at a time when we are all faced with the unprecedented challenges of the COVID – 19 pandemic. Countries like Eswatini face the dual challenge of overcoming COVID-19 while also striving to maintain its gains in the fight against HIV.
The purpose of men’s health month is to heighten awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men. Many conditions are more treatable and less threatening to overall health when they are identified and addressed in their early stages. The habits we hope to encourage by having facilities like this one available – seeking preventative services, detecting and treating problems early, and practicing safe behaviours – are critical for slowing the spread of Covid-19, as well as HIV and TB.
Eswatini stands on the brink of reaching epidemic control in the fight against HIV. However, men still lag behind in receiving HIV services. According to the Eswatini HIV Incidence Measurement Survey (SHIMS) (2017), 22.5% of men living with HIV do not know their status compared to 11.4% among females. If it would encourage a bit of competition, I would phrase this instead as women are doing roughly two times better than men, so men need to up their health game. By January 2020, anti-retroviral therapy coverage was lowest among men aged 15-24 years and voluntary medical male circumcision coverage was less than 35%. The current covid-19 pandemic is also affecting men more that women; as of June 1st, 53% of the COVID-19 cases in Eswatini were in men.
We know that there are important barriers that prevent men from seeking health services. Some of these hurdles include lack of male friendly services in facilities, and inconvenient opening times for facilities especially for men working in the formal sector. Men may also fear that others will think visits to a clinic are unmanly or weak.
Program Director, it is important for health care facilities to address the barriers that make it difficult for men to seek health care services. Health facilities can promote men’s health by ensuring provision of male friendly services, opening during weekends, extending facility opening times, availing more male nurses in facilities, continuing education for men to prioritize their health, and addressing masculinity myths.
The U.S. Government is committed to supporting the Ministry of Health’s efforts to reduce barriers and enhance male friendly health services so that men get the preventive and curative services they need in a timely manner. The Mbabane Men’s Clinic is an example. Through PEPFAR funding, USAID and its implementing partner, EGPAF, supported the Ministry of Health to establish this male friendly clinic that will provide comprehensive health services for men. We believe that the environment, and comprehensive services will increase the number of men seeking health services, not only in the month of June, but throughout the year.
Hon. Minister, let me assure the Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini that the United States Government remains committed to working with you to address the pandemics of COVID-19, TB and HIV, and we will especially work to ensure that the gains we have achieved together in the fight against TB and HIV are sustained even during this time of COVID – 19.