A male contraceptive pill recently passed its first safety test – but South Africans are unsure about whether they would ever use it, with some men fearing that it might permanently affect their sperm production.
Forty men took part in the US trial, with 30 getting the contraceptive pill daily for 28 days and the other 10 getting a placebo. Those taking the pill did not have any significant side effects and it reduced their testosterone levels, important for sperm production.
“Our results suggest that this pill, which combines two hormonal activities in one, will decrease sperm production while preserving libido,” said senior investigator Dr Christina Wang of the Los Angeles Biomed Research Institute.
But Godfrey Muhanganei from Tshino village in Limpopo, says he will not use such a pill as he fears it will make him infertile.
“I do not see myself ever using those pills,” said Muhanganei. “What if I use them and become infertile for life? Even the Bible said that we must have many kids and multiply, why should we limit ourselves. If I do not want to have children I would rather use condoms than rely on those pills.”
He added that if men used the pill “it means that I will stop using condoms and that will put me in more risk to contract STIs as I will no longer fear to impregnate women and I would engage myself in unprotected sexual intercourse”.
Rendani Muobeleni (27) from Tshikhudini village outside Thohoyandou, feels that such pills will increase extramarital affairs. “Though most men do cheat on their partners, I believe that most of them do use condoms in fear of impregnating the women they cheat with,” said Muobeleni. “But now if they know that they can actually prevent, they will stop using condoms and that would spread sexually transmitted infections. I will never allow my man to use those pills. If he wants to prevent he must use condoms.”
But Fungisani Mashau (28), from Mashamba village, was positive about the idea: “My wife does go to the clinic every month to receive contraception in the form of injection so I do not see any problem if I, as a man, can also receive medication to prevent as long as we stay faithful to each other and test for HIV regularly while also continuing to use condoms. I am sure that they will make sure that the male preventative pills have no side effects before they are made available to the public.”
A number of young men from Flagstaff in the Eastern Cape were not too keen on the pill.
“I cannot imagine myself going to a clinic to get contraceptives. It would make me feel less of a man and our clinic are not male-friendly,” said Ngazibini Thunzi (27) from Ntlenzi Village. “I am also worried if the pill would not affect a men’s sex drive, creating another problem for South African men.”
“This could also danger our lives, damaging our fertility,” said Bulelani Matshoba. “We don’t know the side effects. Even some of the females it’s hard for them to fall pregnant because of contraceptives. I won’t take it.”
Akwande Mbulawa was also not keen: “According to what I know, sperm need to reach a specific rate so if I take a pill this couldn’t happen. I don’t trust the pill. What if it kills my fertility? Even condoms we’re using are not 100% but we have babies, they bust, so I cannot take the pill.”
But Xolisa Nomtshibe was happy about the idea: “As young men, most of us don’t want to have babies at a young age. We believe contraceptives are not 100% both females and males but if this is applying to both that can help.”
Meanwhile, Flagstaff Men’s Sector organisation applauded the idea: “The availability of the pill will assist men to have upper hand and not depend on their partners on decisions to have babies or not,” said deputy general secretary Siyabulela Ndesi . “There is high rate of single parents or men that disappear when their partners are expecting babies, therefore this option will assist man to make their own choices.”
But Mthetheleli Ntlabeni (25) said that the invention of the contraceptive pill for men would be a good initiative: “We cannot run away from the fact that there are instances where we do not use condoms due to the heat of the moment. The contraception pill would come in handy to prevent unplanned pregnancies. Our partners have complained about the side effects of female contraceptives such as weight gain, decreased sex drive and so forth. The availability of the male contraceptives could give our partners a break.”
Esethu Mjijwa was sceptical: “I don’t trust it and I would never even trust my partner saying he’s using a pill. Men always want babies.”
Caroline Blom, a fourth-year nursing student at the North West University in Potchefstroom, says she prefers a condom and would rather be on a pill than let her partner take a pill.
“I don’t know much about the pills, but I know how the male body works, so it will probably lower the male testosterone,” said Blom. “This could have side effects that I wouldn’t appreciate… what if my partner has side effects such as lower libido? I feel like the male population is already suffering from things like early ejaculation and all of that. I would either use a condom because it’s safe and protects from STDs, or I would opt for female contraception.”
Lerato Namane, a nurse at MediClinic Potchefstroom, believes that it is fair for males to also have a contraceptive pill: “I would prefer my partner to use it because females react differently to pills. I heard stories that some got pregnant while still preventing, especially with this new implant. So I think it’s best if we both prevent.”
In Mpumalanga, 56-year-old Nkosinathi Njomane from Ermelo became agitated about the idea: “They are truly crossing the line here. This is a women thing; it is like they are preparing us that in the future we might menstruation. Just imagine a grown-up man like me waiting in the queue with a group of women for contraceptive pills.
Jerry Zwane (27) from Mbombela didn’t mind the idea, but he didn’t trust himself to take it properly: “If only it was in a form of an injection I would consider using it because I will do it once after three months. My problem is that I have a problem with alcohol. Even now as we speak I am struggling to take my ARVs without my partner reminding me. I am not saying it’s wrong for men to use the pills but I personally believe some responsibilities are better left handled by women because women are capable, self-motivated and reliable to do the right thing.”
Tumelo Moswane (31) from Ekurhuleni in Gauteng first giggled after being asked whether he would use the pill as a contraceptive method. “Yes, I would use it. I can’t say I don’t want children yet transfer the responsibility of birth control squarely on my partner’s shoulders”.
But Thulane Koaho (33) said that, as a Christian man, he was against contraception:”I think that married people should not use contraceptives. Both men and women should learn not to engage in sex if they don’t want any more children”.
Tshepo Matloga says her boyfriend laughed at her before asking if her she was crazy when she jokingly suggested that he use a male contraceptive. But she said she would not give him that responsibility.
“I have an alarm for [taking my contraceptives]. If I don’t take them when the alarm goes off, I might forget to take the pill later on because I would have forgotten. This is definitely not a task I would put in someone else’s hands,” she said. – Health-e News.
Reporting by Ndivhuwo Mukwevho, Asavela Dalana, Zizo Zikali, Graeme Makam, Cynthia Maseko and Marcia Zali.