In this installment of Our Stories, *Kadeem shares how a bladder infection affected his attitudes towards his sexual and reproductive health. For many people, Jamaica is pictured as an island paradise – white sandy beaches, a beautiful and vivacious culture, rich and wholesome food, and attractive people. And while that image is not far from the truth, if the lens is focused on the inspirational stories of ordinary Jamaicans, you’d find a sharper, richer and truer image of the Jamaican experience…this is Our Stories!

“An apple day keeps the doctor away”, most if not all of us have heard this saying at least once in our lives.

It means that as long as you keep eating right and exercising you will be healthy, and spend less time at the doctor. Well in Jamaica, there’s a belief especially among some men that their bodies are immune to all illnesses because they eat nutritious meals.  If they have pain in their stomach it’s just “gas”, which can be remedied by drinking some tea like wa grandma always seh.

As for reproductive health, they live risky lives; having multiple sex partners without a condom and even those men who are in committed relationships think that since they have one serious partner, they won’t get an STD. They believe that their machoness and bravado shield them from sexually transmitted infections. It is with this understanding, some Jamaican men write off the practice of getting a regular medical check-up. You will hear them say, “mi drink nuff wata and eat rite me good”

Well, the truth is “drinking nuff water” alone won’t save you from high blood pressure (hypertension), cancer, and especially sexually transmitted infections.

Meet *Kadeem Brown 

He’s a 21-year-old from Westmoreland who has a serious disdain for the “doctor’s office”. His last visit was so unpleasant he decided he would never return.

  1. Tell me what happened when you visited the doctor.

I had gone to the doctor once to get a check-up. I had to sign in and state why I was there. The waiting period was awful because the office was packed, mostly with elderly persons so when I told the doctor why I was feeling a certain way she told me to go to the bathroom and pee in a cup. I gave it to her, and she did her test or whatever and maybe in about 15 minutes, she told me that I had a bladder infection. She couldn’t tell me how I got it because I stated that I don’t hold my urine or anything neither did she provide me with any recommendations or anything to prevent it from happening again. She just wrote up a prescription and told me to go fill it. She just said it wasn’t anything major. Overall, it wasn’t a pleasant experience and I didn’t take away anything from it either.

2. I am sorry that your experience wasn’t so pleasant but what would you do to improve your experience?

My experience would have been better if it was a doctor that would tell me what’s going on and not just trying to get me to spend money. I know that nothing can’t really be done towards the wait time but what about reserving specific days for certain issues. So like Mondays is STD check-up and to have an extra pair of hands like another doctor would be great so if on a specified day a person comes for something not assigned for that day, they can be looked after instead of the long wait.

3. That’s a valuable suggestion. Do you have any fears or stereotypes about health facilities that make you not want to get a check-up?

I personally don’t really want to go and hear bad news that will make me not want to go back. Like I said earlier I just don’t like hospitals and going to the doctor seems like a hassle to me. From the long wait to the price they charge and then if something is wrong that also comes with a price tag and in some cases like what I experienced when she couldn’t tell me how I got my bladder infection and didn’t give me any recommendations on how to prevent it from happening again.

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4. Let’s talk some more about the information currently available to young men your age about sexual and reproductive health. Based on your experience, do you believe you are aware of STDs and how they are transmitted and treated?

I don’t really know about how health information is given aside from what is broadcasted on media, but most of those are focused on STDs specifically HIV and that’s not the only STD around there are others that should be given much attention as HIV so that people can be more aware. Maybe that’s why most of us just don’t care, and there are other non-sexual health risks out there like UTIs and Hepatitis C which aren’t spoken about much. Because I didn’t think that I could get a bladder infection being a man I thought that was a woman thing. Most of the build boards only focus STDs on HIV what about other STDs such as herpes etc and what about other health risks thigs that aren’t spoken about much but is still common about the place. More focus needs to be on other STDs and other illnesses. HIV isn’t the only thing that people should be concerned about.

5. What other STIs should the public be educated about?

I think Chlamydia is one of those STDs that people don’t really talk about. Like it’s here but you wouldn’t think it’s here if that’s the right way to put it.  Because you can have chlamydia and not show symptoms but then your partner might show symptoms and you go blame them for you getting it when it was really you. So more ads and billboards should be around demonstrating prevention and treatment for it.

6. I agree with you but information about STIs can be accessed on the internet. Tell me why you think only a few young men your age would spend time researching about STIs online.

Well I think people just don’t really care,  like most people first learn about STD when your guidance counsellor in high school stress wearing a condom and practicing safe sex or just to abstain. But some people are allergic to latex condoms or some people rather to not use condoms. And some justify it by saying they’re in a serious relationship with someone,  so they don’t need a condom. Like I think some of us just don’t care.

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7. If you had more information at your disposal, would you be more motivated to go and have a check-up if you think you are showing symptoms similar to what you’ve read?

Well getting more info would be great then I would know how to ignore getting that bladder infection again. But then again getting more information may not make someone want to go because we as men know we’re to get prostate checks, we know how the check is done so that makes us not want to do it.

I appreciate your honesty *Kadeem and thanks for sharing your story!

*- Name Changed On Request