Last week, Men’s for Health & Gender Justice Organization launched a programme aimed at raising awareness and creating a safe space to discuss health and mental needs of young men in Botswana as well the Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) awareness building.
Emphasis was placed on mental health is because it makes up an integral part of an individual’s capacity to lead a fulfilling life. This includes the ability to form and maintain relationships, to study, work or pursue leisure interests, and to make day-to-day decisions about educational, employment, housing or other choices. However, society typically neglects these needs from men, more so gay men. Disturbances to an individual’s mental well-being can adversely compromise these and choices, leading not only to diminished functioning at the individual level but also broader welfare losses at the household and societal level.
According to the organization, Awareness will be raised through the performing and visual arts as this is one of the easier ways to disseminate information through. Outside of the artistic lens, the programme promises to have group sessions and one-on-one with a professional psychologist to share experiences and also provide possible solutions. When questioned about the legitimacy of this programme in regards to mental health, Men for Health & Gender Justice Programmes Manager, Onkokame Mosweu stressed that “it’s okay not to be okay, we need to fight the patriarchy that a man doesn’t cry”, something that this programme aims at; breaking stereotypes and promoting mental health across gay men.
In regards to PrEP, the programme seeks to raise awareness on the preventative method as it was realised that most gay men tend to have a risky behaviour that leave them prone to catching HIV. It was stated that PrEP is not yet available in Botswana but according to Men for Health and Gender Justice it’s best teaching people about it so that when it rolls out, they already have insights to it. The programme aims to interrogate and possible upscale of young men in accessing health services towards increase of men testing for HIV using PrEP as an entry point to testing.
With the launch of these programmes it’s safe for us to say indeed Botswana is taking a huge progressive leap in trying to promote mental health amongst gay men as well as combating HIV infections.