In the rural setting, a man’s manhood is figuratively likened to a hunting gun.
Like a hunter, it is believed that a man’s greatest asset in the bedroom is the gun with which he is expected to shoot a game; in this case, satisfy a woman sexually and most importantly get her pregnant.
Therefore, when a man is unable to do either of these especially the latter, it is said that “Abanagye ne tuo” an Akan expression which literary translates as “the state has confiscated his gun.” At this point, the man is deemed inept in the bedroom.
Peddlers of sex enhancement drugs have gained notoriety for using this expression in their commercials which are blared on moving vans in town and until recently, on radio and TV.
In the quest of some men to reclaim their supposed figurative guns from the state, and avoid the stigma that comes with their condition, they have gone out of their way.
Kofi Darko (not real name) is one of such men. He is a 35 year old driver. In his case his wife, a teacher, whom I would refer to as Ama can vouch for his stellar sexual performance since they married four years ago.
However, instead of her womb being filled with a growing foetus, her heart has rather been filled with hope that her husband would be healed from a medical condition called Azoospermia.
According to Stanford Health Care, one of the leading health facilities in the United States, which specialises in Azoospermia treatment, the condition is the absence of measurable sperm in a man’s semen.
In its profile of infertility conditions online, it states that the lack of sperm in the semen could be due to blockage of the male genital system although there is completely normal sperm production. This is called obstructive Azoospermia.
The condition is termed non-obstructive Azoospermia when it is as the result of poor sperm production.
Per the hospital’s website, Azoospermia is one of the major causes of male infertility and is found in five to 10 per cent of men evaluated for infertility. The condition may be present at birth or may develop later in life.
Kofi and Ama learnt of the condition when they both visited a health facility after four months of not getting pregnant. The visit to the hospital became necessary after she did not get the desired results from herbal medicine.
“I was very shocked when I found out about my husband’s condition. I was shattered when I googled and I realised there was no cure”, she said while trying hard to fight back her tears.
It was a bitter memory to flash back. But that was just one scene of their predicaments for their search for a solution led them into more problems.
Spiritual solution to biological problem
Due to lack of financial strength to pursue the various options for child birth, they resorted to spiritual solution to a biological problem by visiting different pastors.
Kofi was made to consume all sort of concoctions, adhere to all manner of spiritual directions and part with varying sums of money. One pastor even wanted to impregnate his wife on his behalf.
“I get infuriated when I hear about pastors who claim they can help couples to deliver. One took my money for oil and later told me the oil bottle fell and broke so I have to pay again. Another wanted to sleep with my wife”, he said.
The stigma and teasing
According to Kofi, he had gone through all these trouble because he could no longer bear the stigmatisation and the teasing from close associates.
“I try to avoid the company of my colleague drivers because they tease and ask me if my manhood works. They feel that they are only playing with me but sometimes I feel so hurt and close and go home.
“It has been a painful experience and try as I have to brush it off, I find myself thinking about it over and over again. If I had just one child, I know all these will end”, he lamented.
According to Ama, the stigma is affecting their sexual life since Kofi is of the view that once he cannot make her pregnant, there is no point in having sex.
“He does not seem to enjoy the experience any longer and he does it just to please me. It is not the same as a few months ago. ”, she said.
Back to the Stanford website, treatment for Azoospermia depends on the type. For obstructive Azoospermia, surgery could often fix blocked tubes in a man’s reproductive tract or make connections that never developed because of congenital defects.
For non-obstructive Azoospermia, advanced treatments could help men with that condition to experience the return of sperm to their semen and aid unassisted conception.
All not lost
But if both ways do not work, Dr Maryann Zuolo, a medical doctor at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, says, there are several ways they could have children.
“There are options like invitro fertilisation (IVF) which helps with fertilisation, embryo development, and implantation, so you can get pregnant. There is surrogacy too. A couple having problems should not think all is lost”, she said.
The cost of IVF ranges between GH¢15,000 –GH¢ 40,000. Sadly,Kofi cannot afford it.The only currency he can afford now is the hope that his sperm-less journey to fatherhood will end.
As Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa recently advocated, parliament should consider a legislation which would make Assisted Reproductive Technologies affordable and convenient for Ghanaians.
While we wait for that time, we have a duty to support and not stigmatise childless couples.
BY JONATHAN DONKOR