An Exploratory Study of Constructions of Masculinity, Sexuality and HIV/AIDS in Namibia, Southern Africa

Department of Psychology, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68588-0380, USA.
Culture Health & Sexuality (Impact Factor: 1.55). 11/2005; 7(6):585-98. DOI: 10.1080/13691050500250198
Source: PubMed


The goal of the current study was to explore notions of masculinity and their linkages to HIV/AIDS among Owambo men and women in Namibia, where an estimated one-fifth of 15-49 year-olds have acquired HIV. Thirteen open-ended interviews and three focus groups were conducted with 50 male and female participants aged 19-50 in rural and urban Namibia. Qualitative analysis revealed six central themes: the evolving meanings of masculinity, power dynamics between men and women, women as active agents, the tension between formal and informal education and HIV transmission, alcohol and masculinity, and the blending of masculinity and explanations of HIV and AIDS. The findings suggest both direct and indirect linkages between notions of masculinity and AIDS, and highlight the need for prevention efforts that focus on providing alternative avenues for attaining culturally recognized markers of masculinity.

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    • "Connell [26] argues that many societies subscribe to a “dominant” (hegemonic) definition of masculinity, which both reifies and authenticates male power while subordinating women and other non-dominant forms of masculinity. In this regard, Brown et al. [27] assert that cultural groups construct “ideal notions of masculinity”, which bring into existence the hegemonic masculinity - the masculinity “that men measure themselves against, and are measured against by others” [20, p. 586]. This hegemonic masculinity thus dictates and values certain beliefs, behaviours and desires in men, thereby subjugating both undesirable masculine traits and femininities as its opposite and “other” [21]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Introduction This article explores the complex, dynamic and contextual frameworks within which men working in a mining community and their live-in long-term partners or spouses (termed “couples” in this study) respond to the introduction of HIV into their heterosexual relationships; the way in which partners adopt gendered positions in enabling them to make sense of their illness; how they negotiate their respective masculine and feminine roles in response to the need for HIV-related lifestyle changes; as well as the gendered nature of partner support in relation to antiretroviral therapy (ARV) adherence. Methods We conducted an in-depth qualitative study with a sample of 12 HIV-positive seroconcordant heterosexual couples in a South African mining organization. Transcripts based on semi-structured couple's interviews were analyzed using an inductive emergent thematic analytical method. Results The findings present compelling evidence that the impact of HIV and AIDS is mitigated, in the main, by the nature of the dyadic relationship. Where power and agency were skewed in accordance with traditional gender scripts, the impact of HIV and AIDS was deleterious in terms of negotiating disclosure, meeting expectations of care and support, and promoting treatment adherence. As a corollary, the study also revealed that where the relational dynamic evidenced a more equitable distribution of power, the challenge of negotiating illness was embraced in a way that strengthened the couples’ affiliation in profound ways, manifested not simply in a reduction in risk behaviours, but in both partner's courage to re-visit sensitive issues related to managing their relationship in the context of a debilitating illness. Conclusions Gendered positioning (by self and others) was found to play a crucial role in the way couples experienced HIV and ARV treatment, and underscored the positive role of a couples-counselling approach in the negotiation of the illness experience. However, as part of a broader social project, the findings highlight the need to address the shortcomings of a public health discourse on illness normalization that reifies and reinforces skewed gender relations. In essence, the findings make a compelling case for targeting couples as the primary unit of analysis and intervention in HIV and AIDS praxis, not only to enhance treatment and prevention outcomes, but to impact on and potentially transform the lived identity of such relationships, in AIDS-affected communities. We recommend early intervention with couples in terms of couples HIV testing, risk-reduction counselling and gender-based interventions giving couples opportunities to revisit and challenge their prevailing gendered identities. We note, however, that these efforts will be undermined in the long term, if the structural drivers of HIV risk and vulnerability, contained within macro-level social, economic and cultural practices, are not simultaneously addressed.
    Journal of the International AIDS Society 05/2013; 16(1):18021. DOI:10.7448/IAS.16.1.18021 · 5.09 Impact Factor
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    • "If education is to be an effective mechanism for addressing and resolving the problems created by the HIV and AIDS pandemic, then it stands to reason that teachers, as the main protagonists in any educational scenario, should be facilitated to direct and execute successful and sustainable interventions; otherwise they may unwittingly exacerbate the factors that contribute to HIV transmission. Since gender is an undisputed driver of HIV infection (Brown, Sorrell & Raffaelli 2005; Bruce 2007; Dunkle & Jewkes 2007; Hallman 2005; Lesch & Kruger 2005), it becomes imperative that teachers develop a critical awareness of their own gender constructs and how these influence what they teach, how they teach it and how they interact with learners. "
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    ABSTRACT: Since gender is an undisputed driver of HIV infection, teachers concerned with HIV prevention education should ideally encourage critical awareness of and culturally sensitive practices around gender inequalities. Many interventions and programmes have been developed for teachers to enable them to do this, however most have met with limited success. This article proceeds from the viewpoint that for HIV-prevention interventions to be sustainable and effective, teachers should be actively engaged in their design, implementation and evaluation. It outlines how teachers in an HIV prevention programme utilised an action research design to explore their own gender constructs as a necessary first step to the creation of more gender-sensitive school climates and teaching practices. This values-based self-enquiry moved the teachers to action on two levels: first, to adopt a more gender-sensitive approach in their own personal and professional lives and second, to take action to challenge gender inequalities within their particular educational contexts. Evidence is presented to justify the claim that action research of this genre helps teachers to generate indigenous epistemologies and practices that not only are effective in creating sustainable and empowering learning environments for HIV prevention education, but also for teaching and learning in general.
    SAHARA J: journal of Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS Research Alliance / SAHARA , Human Sciences Research Council 12/2012; 9 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S19-27. DOI:10.1080/17290376.2012.744910 · 0.81 Impact Factor
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    • "Men in settings like Kenya generally are expected to conform to a range of behavioural norms that confirm the hegemonic masculinity [26]. People consider it as a right and necessity, and part of the tradition, that men have more than one partner [27]. Pressure to be sexually adventurous and aggressive to prove manhood is quite pervasive in Africa. "
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    ABSTRACT: Kisumu has shown a rising HIV prevalence over the past sentinel surveillance surveys, and most new infections are occurring among youth. We conducted a qualitative study to explore risk situations that can explain the high HIV prevalence among youth in Kisumu town, Kenya We conducted in-depth interviews with 150 adolescents aged 15 to 20, held 4 focus group discussions, and made 48 observations at places where youth spend their free time. Porn video shows and local brew dens were identified as popular events where unprotected multipartner, concurrent, coerced and transactional sex occurs between adolescents. Video halls - rooms with a TV and VCR - often show pornography at night for a very small fee, and minors are allowed. Forced sex, gang rape and multiple concurrent relationships characterised the sexual encounters of youth, frequently facilitated by the abuse of alcohol, which is available for minors at low cost in local brew dens. For many sexually active girls, their vulnerability to STI/HIV infection is enhanced due to financial inequality, gender-related power difference and cultural norms. The desire for love and sexual pleasure also contributed to their multiple concurrent partnerships. A substantial number of girls and young women engaged in transactional sex, often with much older working partners. These partners had a stronger socio-economic position than young women, enabling them to use money/gifts as leverage for sex. Condom use was irregular during all types of sexual encounters. In Kisumu, local brew dens and porn video halls facilitate risky sexual encounters between youth. These places should be regulated and monitored by the government. Our study strongly points to female vulnerabilities and the role of men in perpetuating the local epidemic. Young men should be targeted in prevention activities, to change their attitudes related to power and control in relationships. Girls should be empowered how to negotiate safe sex, and their poverty should be addressed through income-generating activities.
    BMC Public Health 08/2011; 11(1):635. DOI:10.1186/1471-2458-11-635 · 2.26 Impact Factor
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