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Breaking the silence

Monday, 02 May 2016

Tags: Homepage; Community; Engagement; Kurongkurl Katitjin; Indigenous; Homepage featured

Cultural sensitivities and an unwillingness to speak about their problems with others meant sexual and reproductive health issues among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men went unstudied for years. But one ECU researcher was successful in getting them to open up.

In an upcoming public lecture, Using cultural sensitivity to understand Indigenous men’s sexual health, Senior Research Fellow Dr Mick Adams will present an overview of his ground-breaking research based on 300 participants.

Dr Adams said prior to his study, research in this field was limited mainly to studies of sexually transmitted infections.

“No data had been published on Aboriginal men’s symptoms of prostate disease or erectile dysfunction, nor had the clinical screening and treatment of these disorders among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men been assessed,” Dr Adams said.

Getting men talking

According to Dr Adams, the reasons for prior scant knowledge in this area is that the research relies mainly on self-reporting of sensitive information and much of the research is conducted online or through mail out systems.

“I wanted to improve our understanding of sexual and reproductive health problems experienced by Indigenous men and the best way to do this was to gather the information by other Aboriginal males who were inside the culture of middle-aged and older Indigenous men,” Dr Adams said.

Dr Adams said most men were silent about their reproductive health. They were unwilling to reveal their inner feelings to wives or partners, and reluctant to discuss these issues with doctors and other health care workers.

“Men’s reaction to sexual difficulties included shame, denial, substance abuse and occasionally violence. However, on a positive note, many men said they wanted to learn about it so they could understand how to cope with such problems,” he said.

The findings

Dr Adams said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men reported more symptoms of prostate disease than non-Indigenous men. They also experienced symptoms of erectile dysfunction at least as much as non-Indigenous men.

“But most of all, this study revealed the layers of silence around sexual and reproductive health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men,” Dr Adams said.

“I hope that putting the voices of these men forward will help to break down that silence,” he said.

Dr Adams is a descendent of the Yadhiagana/Wuthuthi people of Cape York Peninsula in Queensland having traditional family ties with the Gurindji people of Central Western Northern Territory with extended family relationships with the peoples of the Torres Straits, Warlpiri (Yuendumu), and East Arnhem Land (Gurrumaru) communities.

His lecture Using cultural sensitivity to understand Indigenous men’s sexual health, which is part of The West Australian ECU Lecture Series, will be held on Tuesday, 13 October 2015. It is free and open to all members of the community. Register via The West Australian ECU Lecture Series webpages (places limited).

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