"My wife’s mistrust. That’s the saddest part of being a diabetic": A qualitative study of sexual well-being in men with Type 2 diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa
Cooper S., Leon N., Namadingo H., Bobrow K., Farmer AJ.
© 2018 Cooper et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Introduction Sexual dysfunction is a common complication for men with diabetes, yet little is known about the lived experiences of sexual difficulties within the context of diabetes, particularly in low-and-middle-income countries. This study explores how men with type 2 diabetes in three sub-Saharan African settings (Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa; Lilongwe, Malawi) perceive and experience sexual functioning and sexual well-being, and the biopsychosocial contexts in which these occur and are shaped. Methods We used a qualitative research design, including individual interviews (n = 15) and focus group discussions (n = 4). Forty-seven men were included in the study. We used an inductive thematic analysis approach to develop our findings. A biopsychosocial conceptual model on the relationship between chronic illness and sexuality informed the interpretation of findings. Results Men across the study settings identified sexual difficulties as a central concern of living with diabetes. These difficulties went beyond biomedical issues of erectile dysfunction, comprising complex psychological and relational effects. Low self-esteem, related to a sense of loss of masculinity and reduced sexual and emotional intimacy in partner relationships were common experiences. Specific negative relational effects included suspicion of infidelity, mutual mistrust, general unhappiness, and fear of losing support from partners. These effects may impact on men’s ability to cope with their diabetes. Further stressors were a lack of information about the reasons for their sexual difficulties, perceived lack of support from healthcare providers and an inability to communicate with partners about sexual difficulties. Conclusion More in-depth research is needed to better understand sexual functioning and well-being within the context of diabetes, and its potential impact on diabetes self-management. Holistic and patient-centered care should include raising awareness of sexual problems as a potential complication of diabetes amongst patients, their partners and care providers, and incorporating sexual well-being as part of routine clinical care.