Masculinity and sexual practices in the military: A South African study
African Journal of AIDS Research (Impact Factor: 0.79). 04/2011; 10(1):43-50. DOI: 10.2989/16085906.2011.575547
The military's organisational culture tends to condone or encourage risk-taking behaviour. Willingness to accept and engage in risk-taking behaviour is central to good soldiering and is strongly associated with readiness for combat. This core attribute of military culture might predispose soldiers to engage in other higher-risk behaviours, such as unprotected sex. Soldiers' working and living conditions, such as the high level of work-related stress in combat and deployment situations, and being away from home and particularly from partners for long periods, are reported as contributing to high levels of HIV in military groups. This article explores the underlying value system in the military context as a strong enabler of higher-risk sexual practices among male soldiers. This not only obstructs gender equality in the military organisation but also impacts on the prevalence of HIV. The article derives from a qualitative study of a diverse sample of 23-33-year-old male South African soldiers. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 fulltime soldiers and the interview transcripts were analysed through interpretive discourse analysis. The findings highlight that when soldiers are on deployment or attending military courses they are often tempted to engage in higher-risk sexual behaviours. Underlying this narrative are patriarchal notions that men 'need' sex and cannot endure being without it, and that they have the right therefore to demand it from their partner or to seek it from multiple partners. Male soldiers' sexual practices appear to be rationalised predominantly on the basis of the 'male sexual drive' discourse. The research found an association between work in the military and higher-risk sexual activity. Therefore, we argue that tackling HIV in the military demands critical examination of the constructions of masculinity.
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ABSTRACT: The drivers of HIV/AIDS in the South African Police Service (SAPS) and impact of the disease on this workforce are neglected areas of research. Existing evidence suggests that while the occupational risk for contracting HIV is low, there are factors associated with the profession that, if left unmanaged, place police officers at risk of contracting HIV. This study's two aims are to identify the potential pathways of HIV infection within policing services and determine the probable impact of HIV/AIDS on SAPS. Through a systematic literature review on HIV/AIDS within police services, and by analysing selected SAPS human resource data, the causal pathways and impact of HIV/AIDS on police services are explored. The study finds that police officers (particularly male officers) are likely to be highly susceptible to HIV infection as a result of risky sexual behaviours born out of occupational characteristics such as high levels of stress, difficult working conditions, living away from home and interactions with sex workers. The problem is exacerbated by the ‘macho’ culture that often prevails among police officers. HIV/AIDS interventions within SAPS must focus on sustained behaviour change. Further, HIV programmes must equip officers with the knowledge and awareness to avoid engaging in high-risk sexual practices that may compromise their health and the effectiveness of the policing service.African Security Review 05/2014; 23(2). DOI:10.1080/10246029.2014.902387
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