Issue 8
Monday, 23 May 2016
Charles Darwin University
Dr Suzanne Belton: Gendered sexual health services are needed in remote communities
Dr Suzanne Belton: Gendered sexual health services are needed in remote communities

‘Shame’ deters men from sexual health help

By Patrick Nelson

The sexual health of men in remote Indigenous communities would likely improve if they had access to “male safe areas” in health clinics or male-specific outreach services, a Charles Darwin University academic says in the May edition of an international health journal.

School of Health Associate Professor Suzanne Belton said men’s sense of shame from being seen by women while visiting a clinic was one of several factors that contributed to high rates of sexually transmitted infections in remote communities.

“Some men do not seek testing for sexually transmitted infections because they cannot see a male clinician, which is particularly important in this type of clinical encounter,” Dr Belton said.

“If Indigenous men are reluctant to present to clinics because the service does not feel appropriate to them, we would argue that the health service is inequitable.

“Until culturally and gender appropriate approaches to sexual health services are implemented, sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates in Indigenous Australians are  likely to remain high.”

Dr Belton and co-authors Dr Jiunn-Yih Su and Dr Nathan Ryder posed the question “Why are men less tested for sexually transmitted infections in remote Australian Indigenous communities” in an article published this month in Culture, Health and Sexuality.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study in Australia to investigate the reasons for disparity in STI testing rates between men and women in remote Indigenous communities,” Dr Belton said.

The study in a remote Northern Territory community confirmed a low level of health literacy among some Indigenous men.

“Culturally appropriate sexuality education and health promotion to men and boys would improve understanding of their own sexual health needs.

“Men and boys require sexuality knowledge to be able to look after themselves and their sexual partners.”

Dr Belton said Indigenous men and women deserved the highest standard of health care that a country was able to provide and if men’s sexual and reproductive health remained poor this impacted on women’s and infants’ health.

“Our findings may also have implications for other important areas of men’s health, such as chronic disease of mental health management if a sex disparity in screening, testing and treatments is found in these areas,” she said.