In recent years, many UNFPA-supported projects have emphasized men’s role in various aspects of reproductive health. The projects target many different groups of men – from soldiers to religious leaders -- to achieve different goals, from preventing and treating sexually transmitted diseases to making reproductive health services available to youth.
In response to the high prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS Cote d’Ivoire, a UNFPA-supported project expanded the military health centres to include diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases as well as family planning services. The project was based on the idea that the military can be motivated to adopt responsible sexual behaviour and improve reproductive health of their families if they are fully aware of the threats of unprotected sexual contacts and if quality reproductive health services are available. To achieve this goal, high-ranking military were sensitized to the issues, research was conducted, military health centers were renovated and equipped, service providers were trained in contraceptive technology and communication skills, and condoms were distributed to soldiers going out on maneuvers. Results included increase in the use of condoms and in the number of sexually transmitted diseases treated. Because of an increased demand for condoms, a follow-up project was initiated to establish condom selling points in the military tuck shops.
In the Dominican Republic, barbers were the conduit for getting messages about prevention of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases to almost half a million men. The barbers, who were trained in interpersonal communications, also distributed condoms and were encouraged to refer clients with sexually transmitted diseases for treatment. The barbers were selected based on literacy and leadership skills, as well as an interest in community development.
Asociacion Dominicana de Planificacion Familiar (ADOPLAFAM) provided the barbers with basic training, including lessons on proper condom use, refresher courses, informational materials and condoms. The barbers found that the extra services they provided increased the flow of customers for haircuts. Even after the project ended, the barbers continued to sell subsidized condoms through a social marketing mechanism and to provide referrals and information. Unfortunately, no institutional link had been established between the project and the clinics, and the service component was disappointing. Nevertheless, a project evaluation pointed to the efficacy of using barbers to work with a relatively hard-to-reach target population.
Male Call, a project implemented by Population Services Pilipinas Inc. with support from the Turner Foundation and UNFPA, successfully combined educational strategies with the provision of reproductive health services in Taytay, a rural area in the Philippines. Because the approval and cooperation of their partners was needed to ensure women’s access to health services in the area, men were a key target for messages delivered through print media, cultural performances, community events and seminars and workshops. Service components of the project included rural outreach, a referral system that offered discounted rates and a clinic that emphasized the links between overall family health and male reproductive health and sexual concerns. Successes included more family planning acceptors, more prenatal check-ups and pap smears and more treatment of reproductive tract infections. In addition, seminars and workshops gave men the opportunity to discuss sexual behaviours and talk more openly about reproductive and sexual issues with their partners. Evaluations showed that the project improved men’s relationships with their wives.
A pilot project in the Southern Muslim communities of Pattani Province of Thailand promotes adolescent health and reproductive rights in an area where women and adolescents have been prohibited from learning about sexual health issues because of prevailing conservative norms. Initiated by Planned Parenthood Association of Thailand (PPAT), with the support of UNFPA, the project focuses on out-of-school Muslim youths, using peer educators. The project has also enlisted the co-operation of religious leaders (Ulanas) and, by taking an Islamic perspective on issues of reproductive health and male responsibility, helped sensitize the influential Provincial Islamic Council on the importance of reproductive health education.
Through youth health centers, managed by young men and women who live in the communities, the project provides reproductive health and family planning information and services to young married couples, as well as single young people. Because men are the family decision-makers in the community, PPAT encouraged their participation in youth centre activities. The project employed a three-pronged approach of advocacy, communications, and reproductive health service delivery to reach adolescents and males.