By Youba, Morocco
No one can deny the importance of sex in our lives. It has uncountable benefits for our bodies, brains, and souls. Sexual intercourse is not just a way of distraction, it also counts as an exercise that can help us reduce stress, lower blood pressure, prevent heart attacks and boost the immune system. Hence, people are sexually active, either with or without sex education.
Unfortunately, in my country, many people do not have access to sexual health education. Schools and families never discuss the topic and the internet is full erroneous information. The very few programs we have never acknowledge or address sexuality and sexual orientation, nor the negative impacts of homophobia. They provide inadequate information about HIV and generally do not address sexual health risks relevant to men who have sex with men (MSM). That led me to wonder, how can Moroccan youth get adequate sexual health education?
Last year, one of my best friends caught a sexually transmitted infection. He was confused, scared and lost. He wanted to ask, specifically, about his case as a man who has sex with men (MSM) to understand and learn more. However, the vast majority of families in Morocco consider homosexuality and sex out of marriage an unforgivable sin. For that reason, he decided not to talk about it with anyone.
Day after day, the situation became worse, the pain became unbearable. Bad ideas came to his mind making him suffer in silence. After many days of insomnia, he decided to talk his close friends who would not judge him; I was one of them.
By chance, one of our friends faced the same problem before. He shared his experience with us, he shared his experiences of humiliation, homophobia, discrimination, prejudice, and stigma. Being a gay or bisexual man seeking sexual health care makes access to institutions more complicated, especially, when you look feminine. We accompanied him to an association located in our city, Agadir. For the sake of supporting him, we went to this gay-friendly sexual health institution. Surprisingly, we found out that this association is fighting against HIV and STIs; called ASCS (Association Sud Contre le Sida).
My friend found a treatment to his infection. And I found a place that provides a safe and educational space, and offer access to basic medical and psychological support to such a marginalized population. It was an amazing discovery for me.
I started volunteering at the association, helping with campaigns, distributing flyers, and learning about HIV and STIs. With time, I realized how important my position was and how vital the information I was learning was for the key populations. I decided to go forward and work out in the field. I began working with gay and bisexual sex workers coming from vulnerable and disenfranchised backgrounds.
This motivated me to share my knowledge about sexuality and gender-related issues. Raising awareness about the risks young men could face, especially sex workers who are facing additional discrimination for being sexual minorities.
After a few months of volunteering. I started working on two projects related to gay and bisexual men. For the first one, I am a team leader, managing a team of ten individuals from the community. My work consists of raising awareness, animating debates, and providing medical (HIV and Syphilis Diagnostic and treatment), social and psychological support. For the second one, I am a peer educator, offering sexual health advice through online gay chat platforms, such as Grinder which is a huge dating platform for gay, bisexual and bisexual man.
From this modest experience, I learned how important is to reach communities to make a change. Doing so is challenging, it’s not always as easy as it seems. However, with determination and hard work, we always could push forward for better results.