Missing men's messages: Does the reproductive health approach respond to men's sexual health needs?
Culture, Health and Sexuality 2(2): 135-150
Publication date: 2000
Following the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, the world has seen a shift in paradigm away from focused family planning programmes towards reproductive and sexual health more generally. This paper considers how the traditional emphasis on women's health and family planning can result in men's sexual health needs being overlooked. A biomedical rationale to target men with health services evolved from the rising interest in control programmes for HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). To plan appropriate health interventions more needs to be known about how men perceive their sexual health. Unique data from Orissa (India) and rural Bangladesh illustrate men's perceptions of their sexual health problems and demonstrate that men are willing to seek care. While public sector programmers and health planners may be focusing their attention on the control of STIs, men in both studies indicated that their major concerns relate more to matters of psychosexual disorders. The failure of public sector programmes to take cognisance of male sexual health problems may lead to men continuing to seek care for all their sexual health problems (including STIs) in the unregulated and possibly ineffective private sector. If programmes addressing the sexual health needs of men are to be effective, they will need to be comprehensive in their scope and coverage, just as they are now aiming to be for women.