Getting ‘DUDES’ To Open Up on Indigenous Men’s Sexual Health



Celebrated each year during June, Men's Health Month brings awareness to the health issues all men face.

Sexual health is an important part of Indigenous men's overall health and wellness, but it can be a difficult topic to discuss with a health care provider, let alone a trusted friend or partner.

Enter the DUDES Club. Established in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in 2010, the club promotes men's health by creating a safe space for men to experience solidarity, brotherhood, pride, purpose, and culture.


Men's health advocates such as John Olson, Henry Morgan, and Frank Cohn—who is a director at DUDES—all have first-hand experience supporting Indigenous men with all aspects of their mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. At the club, men support one other to start conversations on sensitive issues such as sexual health, mental health, or substance use.

They point out there is often a lot of overlap between these health issues because the club takes a holistic approach to men's health. By promoting a respectful and a non-judgmental environment, men can discuss aspects of sexual health such as feeling secure in relationships, having open conversations with partners, and feeling confident and safe to talk with a health care provider.

Some of the challenges that men like John, Henry and Frank see in accessing sexual health care include the social pressure to be “strong," a fear of testing positive for a sexually-transmitted disease, Western medical approaches undermining traditional wellness, and racism and discrimination in the health care system.

Health care providers can help men feel more comfortable seeking sexual health care by giving them time and space to bring up issues and ask questions, providing information in a sensitive but straightforward way, and asking men if they would prefer a male care provider. To ease embarrassment, sexual health care can also be accessed via the First Nations Virtual Doctor of the Day, which is a fully online service.

Most importantly, John, Henry and Frank stress that at DUDES Club, men who are natural leaders are those who become role models for wellness, culture, and a healthy lifestyle. This has a significant positive impact on others and demonstrates how valuable and powerful it is for men to take care of their health, have conversations about sensitive health issues such as sexual health, and support other men in their health and wellness journeys.

In celebration of Men's Health Month, we raise our hands to all the Indigenous men who are modelling health in their community. Thank you John, Frank, and Henry for sharing your knowledge with us!

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