Today marks the start of National Men’s Health Week (June 13-19). With it comes the public health awareness campaign for men to be more proactive in getting regular screenings and seeking health care from a medical professional more often.
One of the biggest health issues for men is screening. They just don’t get screened as much as women do for the various cancer screenings or tests for infectious diseases like HIV. According to the CDC, women are 33% more likely to see a doctor than men, and women are 100% better at maintaining screening and preventive care.1
“In general, men are very reluctant to go out and get tested; and we don’t know the reasons,” said Michael Lutz, MD, Men’s Health Foundation Partner at the Michigan Institute of Urology (MIU). Lutz says this could be the way boys are conditioned at a very young age, and are told that “big boys don’t cry.” And, he says, when they grow up, men aren’t equipped to see a doctor.
Another global health disparity between men and women relates to public health messages. For example, with regard to breast and prostate cancer, health awareness disseminated through the media has seen a greater proliferation of the former cancer compared to the latter. “In a study exploring cancer articles in newspapers, mammography was found to be mentioned significantly higher than PSA or colorectal screenings in mainstream and ethnic newspapers,” the investigators wrote.2
Throughout the year, various events related to breast cancer are organized, including the Mother’s Day Walk. The annual awareness campaign culminates in October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In perhaps a bit of irony, and an example of the differences in messaging, many professional NFL players wear flashes of pink on their uniforms, gloves and cleats to raise breast cancer awareness.
Thinking about infectious diseases and HIV testing, years ago and even today to some extent there was a stigma around it and delays in testing can lead to less than optimal results. “A negative HIV test result can lead to prevention options like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP),” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on its site. “A positive result should lead that person to receive care and treatment, ideally on the day the diagnosis is made. This protects their health and is essential to prevent new infections.
With National Men’s Health Week, providers and various health organizations are working to turn the tide in favor of more men being proactive in their health.
“We’re using every hook we can to try to engage men in health care services, whether it’s through our foundation or any service available in the community,” Lutz said.
His Detroit, Michigan-based organization hosts events around raising awareness about testing and getting real-life tests done during National Men’s Health Week. The foundation is also hosting its Blue Monday (today) to kick off Men’s Health Week by promoting commitment to men’s health.
And with HIV/AIDS in mind, the Men’s Health Foundation has partnered with a local organization, Gospel Against AIDS, to educate men about health disparities when it comes to HIV.
“We do 2 things: educational sessions and HIV testing”, Rosalind Andrews-Worthy, executive director of Gospel Against AIDS, explained. “Our goal is to empower and equip religious leaders in their places of worship to operate effectively across the continuum of HIV care by providing care services to people at risk of HIV infection.”
“HIV testing and HIV testing opportunities are the things we talk about a lot,” Lutz said. “And fortunately thanks to Rosalind and our partnership through our Men’s Health Foundation, we are able to offer these screenings. There is nothing that has become more valuable at our Men’s Health event than standing there and seeing men openly lining up waiting for their HIV testing.
Gospel Against AIDS is funded by the CDC, the Michigan Department of Health, and the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Foundation, and celebrates its 25th anniversary.
Contagion spoke to Andrews-Worthy and Lutz about men’s health disparities in HIV testing and care, and how clinicians and community leaders can engage men to discuss their sexual health and consider preventive measures such as PrEP.
To find out more about the foundation’s events this week, head over to their website.
1.Brett KM, Burt CW. Use of Ambulatory Medical Care by Women: United States, 1997-98. Vital Health Stat 13. 2001;(149):1-46. doi:10.1037/e309022005-001
2. Stryker JE, Emmons KM, Viswanath K. Uncovering Differences in the Cancer Control Continuum: A Comparison of Ethnic and Mainstream Cancer Newspaper Articles. Prev Med. 2007;44(1):20-25. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2006.07.012
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