Atamelang Kgosieng* was beginning to feel the effects on stress on his body. His body felt unusually heavy and he worried that this would affect the intimacy between him and his partner in the bedroom. Is was beginning to affect his self-esteem and he decided to consult his local Men’s Clinic to get down to the root of the problem.
Luckily for him, the doctor gave him a clean bill of health. Relieved, he shared his experience with his friends, most of whom are married and to his surprise he discovered that many haboured secrets of their own with regards to their sexual reproductive health. He was met with stories of hopelessness and embarrassment as they spilled the beans about problems they were experiencing in their marriages due to erectile dysfunction. Kgosieng says this was news to him as none of them had previously shared this taboo subject with each other.
The topic of sexual performance is certainly taboo worldwide and is usually attached with shame, especially where men are affected. The reality is that sexual matters transcend beyond the bedroom when it comes to relationships. They can affect daily life, both at work and at home.
Global Statistics indicate that 50 per cent of men over the age of 50 years have a degree of erectile dysfunction (ED), while 29 per cent of all men are affected by it, figures which a local practitioner says are true to Botswana as well.
According to urologist and andrologist, James Nkusi at the Family and Men’s Care Clinic in Gaborone, of all the sexual health issues men experience such as early ejaculation, weak erection, low sexual desire, erectile dysfunction is the one that is most prevalent and most bruising to a man’s manhood.
He says that “patients who are more at risk of ED are those affected by hypertension, diabetes, kidney issues and cardiovascular diseases. He also indicated that drugs used to treat some of the health conditions can also cause ED.
ED and relationships
Nkusi also shared that most of his patients are married, so “usually when a man comes to me for a consultation, I ask him to come back with his wife.” This is because sexual performance issues can go beyond a physical dysfunction due to ill health but can be induced by ‘psycho-social causes such as religion, cultural influence, a traumatic sexual event, body image or anxiety stemming from either one of the partners.
Marriage counselor, Lovet Mpofu, agrees that ED is a serious issue amongst men; a problem that even affects marriage. He explained that although it may be an issue manifesting through the man’s sexuality, in a relationship and family setting, the woman is usually the one who suffers first.
“This is a serious issue because malfunction of sexuality affects the family starting with the wife. When she wants sex and the husband cannot fulfill that need, with some end up outside of the marriage to find intimacy. This will usually depend on the stage of the relationship as well as the cause of the problem,” Mpofu elaborated.
He noted that, “sexual issues normally begin in the mind”. He explained that they usually start with family issues such as quarreling, money problems where the man may lose sexual desire and withdraws from sexual intimacy and affection.
“For instance, when a man cannot provide for his family (loses a job), it is reflected in his sexuality,” Mpofu said.
Dr Nkusi said that “all forms of erectile dysfunction are treatable.” He said erectile dysfunction can be treated medically or through psychol-therapy. The first step is practicing a healthy lifestyle including a healthy diet.
“Bad habits like smoking and alcohol consumption can affect sexual performance,” he said and cautioned that in cases of smokers, a patient shows incomplete response to treatment, and also that smoking doubles the risk of developing severe ED.
He added that because the causes of ED are multi-dimensional, treatment goals should be tailored for individual patients, appropriate for both age and medication.
Because of the stigma attached to ED as, Nkusi says the interval period from the first time they experience ED to the time they finally consult help averages two-three years but, he said, this should not be the case because help is out there. He encouraged men to take their partners along when going for consultation, further advising them to seek help as early as possible.