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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Clinic Treats Sexually Crestfallen

The distressed 74-year-old caller explained that his wife had asked him to have sex with her three times daily, but he could only make love once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Believing that goat's milk would "cure" him, his 54-year-old wife bought a goat and served him the milk. "I am poor and need money right now," the man said. "Will the milk really help me? Or can I sell her?"

The man was calling a Moscow clinic devoted exclusively to the problem of impotence, and his views show the level of ignorance toward the condition, as well as the desperate measures a patient will go to, says Marina Kopaliani, general director of the city's highest profile urological center, ON-Clinic.

The clinic, opened in 1995 by an Israeli doctor, advertises its services on television and radio and offers private, confidential treatment. Impotence is a sensitive topic in any society but it is regarded as particularly shameful in Russia, where masculinity is prized.

Some newspapers even refuse to print ads that contain the words "erection" or "ejaculation," says ON-Clinic press advertisements secretary Anaida Grigoryan. "They tell me, 'Among our readers and our population, everything works.'"

On the contrary, Kopaliani believes Russian men may have an even higher rate of impotency. Kopaliani theorizes that one of five Russian men -- as opposed to a world average of one out of eight -- suffer from impotency due to high instances of alcohol abuse, poor diet and shabby environment.

Every day about 50 men visit the bright, modern clinic where they are quickly ushered into one of several small rooms sparsely decorated with potted plants and oil paintings. A few men approached in the hallway and asked about their cases refused to discuss them, looking away or down at the ground. Some explained that they didn't feel comfortable talking about such "private" issues. One man became angry and stony faced, saying curtly that, "I don't even talk about such things with my wife, let alone the public."

Some visitors to the clinic have been impotent for years, while others want simply to improve their stamina. Each case is different, Kopaliani says, but the panic and embarrassment is the same. Until the 1980s, impotence was believed worldwide to be a psychological problem. Research in the last decade, however, shows that impotence, especially among middle-age and elderly men, is more often due to poor health or long periods of abstention.

Yevgeny, a typical client, visited the clinic after he abstained from sex for more than 10 years while his wife was ill. He was horrified when, after his wife finally recovered, he was unable to perform.

The first step in diagnosing the potency problem is to hook up the man's penis to a special machine that monitors blood flow and nerve stimulation. Offering a man a private room, pornographic films and explicit magazines the clinic's doctor asks the man to masturbate. This first visit costs 300 rubles ($50).

Most patients between the ages 18 and 30 are inhibited by psychological complexes. Commonly a young man has an unsuccessful encounter with a woman and starts to worry. The more he worries, the more difficult a time he has. For such patients ON-Clinic offer consultations with a psychoanalyst for 300 rubles a session.

Staffed with six certified urologists and one psychoanalyst, ON-Clinic offers treatment in the form of pills, homeopathic herbs, stimulating masks and laser or magnetic stimulation. Treatment packages differ according to the problem and cost from 100 to 7,000 rubles. The clinic also addresses urological infections and diseases. Though women are excluded from sexual performance treatment and advice, they can be treated for infections. The clinic also has a 24-hour telephone hotline for questions.

"It is an incredibly important thing for men," Kopaliani says. "I received a letter the other day from a 92-year-old man. He was bedridden, and couldn't even come to the clinic. I don't know how he could have engaged in sex. Nonetheless, he was deeply distressed that his member wouldn't stand."