A new campaign urges men in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to get tested. It also tries to highlight the warning signs for illnesses affecting men the most.
During November, M-Coalition – an organization set up to cater for Arab men who have sex with men – produced a series of infographics to highlight the most common health problems.
Written in both Arabic and English, the infographics aim to break stigma in men seen as weak if they get tested.
Executive director of M-Coalition Elie Ballan told Gay Star News: ‘In the MENA region, there still is the idea that men who make annual blood tests or regular medical checkups are often treated as hypochondriacs.
‘Men are mocked if they cannot bear some pain. Masculinities are challenged if they do not just bear with it to go away.
‘Health is usually not a major concern. Unless there is a major emergency such as an infection or unbearable pain,’ he said.
Expectations of masculinity in MENA
The stigma has far-reaching consequences and ties in heavily with expectations of masculinity in the Arab world.
Ballan said: ‘Men only tend to consult a doctor or physician if their condition becomes worse. Or unfortunately when too late.
‘M-Coalition wanted to focus on all diseases that men are most likely be affected by and raise awareness about the importance of early testing and early health check-ups for all illnesses in general and for HIV and STIs in particular,’ he said.
M-Coalition is committed this November to encouraging men to also get involved in Movember.
As it’s Men’s Health Awareness Month, they wanted to talk about health for men in general. They chose specifically not just to cater to men who have sex with men because Ballan said they didn’t want to alienate anyone.
He said: ‘We did not go too far so people in the region would share it more without being afraid.’
For a full explanation of the campaign, visit the M-Coalition website and find out how you can help. The campaign also urges people to take a photo with the MCoalition Movember filter and post it publicly.