File generic image: Man covers himself while woman looks at him disapprovingly

Men living with erectile dysfunction, also commonly known as ED, see the malfunction as a sign of weakness and shame.

While most men are often discouraged by their families from seeking medical and psychological help for the condition, stigma by society can make living with ED even more challenging.

It is one of the most stigmatised health conditions despite the increasing knowledge, and information for its prevention.

Jonathan,* 56, who was diagnosed with ED 10 years ago, says knowing he had condition made him realise that it was a normal illness instead of it being a taboo topic.

He was in his mid-40s when he noticed he had problems with his "manhood" and decided to consult a a GP who later diagnosed him with ED.

“It came as no shock to me because I had noticed over the years that my sex drive was not the same, my erections were getting weaker and did not last,” said Jonathan.

The GP had to run tests which included an overnight device that he had to put around his penis to see if he had erections in his sleep - which he didn't.

“The GP told me that the cause of my ED was linked to my family's medical history which included heart condition and blood pressure problems”.

Today he believes that ED symptoms actually saved his life. “I wouldn't have known that my blood circulation was a problem and I was at high risk of getting a stroke."

He admits that ED almost ruined his confidence as a man. “When your penis is not functioning, you feel like your life is not functioning. Somehow the performance of my penis affected my manhood it made me feel less of a man.”

Losing interest in sex also threatened his marriage of 33 years. "My wife thought she was not attractive enough for me to get an erection. It made her feel insecure and often thought it was due to her body changing because of age. If ED is not handled well, it can break any good healthy marriage,” he said.

His doctor prescribed Viagra as treatment,which he has to take 20 minuets before having sex, and that gave him enough drive to last for two hours.

“The 20 minuets gives me enough time to have the best foreplay and fun with my wife before we have sex. So that's not even a problem for us,” said a giggling Jonathan.

Jonathan admits that getting treatment was the best decision for him and his wife.

Jonathan is among the few men who can talk about ED, as many men are are too ashamed to talk about it.

The main symptoms of ED are reduced interest in sexual intercourse and difficulty in getting and maintaining an erection.

Dr Wisani Craig Mamitele at the Urology Hospital in Pretoria, says some men are too embarrassed to confront the problem - an attitude which he says is counter-productive to their recovery.

According to him, ED is not uncommon and there are solutions. Men simply need to accept it as any other health issue. Mamitele points it out that the process of dealing with it after acceptance may include educating a man's partner about the causes and solution.

“This will help avoid pressure from a sexual partner, decrease stress and give an opportunity for support . There is no need to be embarrassed or ashamed of ED, men should understand that it is not an unusual condition. Seeking medical help is crucial in dealing with the problem,” he said.

Although it may be prevalent in older men, Mamitele explains ED can affect men at any age. As men get older there is a natural decrease in testosterone which may lower sex drive and increase ED. In some patients, ED is a warning sign for other major vascular conditions like heart attacks and strokes.

* Not real name