Male pill: Zim men run scared

Could the male contraceptive pill be the greatest thing since sliced bread?
Many Zimbabwean men, at least for now, want nothing to do with the breakthrough that researchers are fine-tuning at a lab in Washington in the United States.

Since the announcement about two weeks ago that the male pill was in the works, we have heard how this is a conspiracy to emasculate black men, to depopulate Africa, or to sneak in some sort of cancer.

Researchers say the once-daily tablet is safe. And with the male contraceptive pill, men’s roles in family planning issues are enhanced.

The male pill – dimethandrolone undecanoate (DMAU) – combines an activity of an androgen (a male hormone such as testosterone) and a progestin.

DMAU is being developed at the University of Washington, and researchers say it reduces sperm production and causes other changes that make it more difficult to impregnate someone.

But a Twitter poll by The Sunday Mail last week showed most male respondents did not want to use DMAU.

Of the 944 respondents as at last Thursday, 61 percent rejected DMAU, 27 percent said they would try it, and 12 percent were undecided.

“Just to be extra safe, women will have to take theirs too,” said a respondent who identified himself as Allan.

Goerge Banda was adamant he did not want to touch the pill: “So that people die with HIV! Hell no.”

Official Khabo was also strident in his rejection: “Why are such measures always advocated more in Africa? This is another trap to tamper with our genes. I personally won’t take this up.”

Benedick Louw slammed the male contraceptive pill as a destruction tool for Africa. “Depopulation drive of blacks alive as ever,” he opined.

This is a line that could resonate with Registrar-General Mr Tobaiwa Mudede, who has accused the Wesr of propagating dangerous birth control measures to depopulate developing nations.

He encourages traditional ways like the withdrawal and “rhythm” (safe phases of menstrual cycle) methods.

Twitter respondent Herbert Muzambi appeared sceptical: “Ummmmm is this real? But I don’t think it’s so effective like what it does to women.”

Because women have taken contraceptive pills for decades, some men thing the breakthrough is a direct challenge to their masculinity.

“An important factor in determining my masculinity is sexual performance and more significantly fertility. And by asking me to use the so-called pill will be essentially taking that away from me,” said one respondent.

Zvikomborero, without explaining what scientific bases he was using, asserted that: “It does harm sex drive. Do your research more efficiently.”

Women – naturally – are largely over the moon.

“Finally, a rest for women,” said one; while another added: “It’s time for men to start their shift”.

Choices for male contraception are still limited to withdrawal, abstinence, condom use or vasectomy.

These methods have been criticised for being inadequate or irreversible.

Moreover, condoms are typically used in casual sexual encounters or the early stages of a relationship, and are often abandoned once a relationship becomes serious.

Female contraceptive methods, on the other hand, have been shown to be more reliable and successful.

Scientists say making a male pill is not easy.

The female pill mimics the natural hormone fluctuations of a woman’s monthly cycle and reproducing an equivalent chemical process in men is technically more difficult – although not impossible.

A major step forward into future contraceptive developments are resting on a male pill, a long-acting injection and topical gels.

The latter two are also under development.

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