July 20, 2016

#EndAIDS: Let’s Not Forget About Men

Written by By Karin Hatzold, Project Director, PSI/UNITAID/HIV Self Test AfRica

This post originally appeared on PSI Impact. Reposted with permission.

Almost universally, men interact with health systems far less than women. In sub-Saharan Africa and in countries with high HIV burden, the  consequences are real: men are less likely to know their HIV status; are diagnosed later in the course of infection and less likely to maintain adherence to HIV treatment once started; and, are also less likely to take up HIV prevention interventions, such as voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC). Men’s engagement is therefore particularly critical in those countries most severely affected by the pandemic. Strategies that are sensitive to their specific needs are urgently needed to get men interested and engaged, along with increasing their access to health services.

But what do we know about their perspectives?What do we know about their fears, anxieties, barriers and their gender-specific perceptions of current health services? What do we know about where and how men would want to access services and how they see their role in HIV prevention and care?

In the lead up to the 21st International AIDS Conference, PSI and partners Jhpiego and AVAC  conducted a series of “Frank Dialogues” with men from across four sub-Saharan African countries: Lesotho, Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. The discussions, interviews and talks with men, from all levels of society,  explore their perspectives on male societal roles, how they relate to norms around masculinity and how these men see their roles and responsibilities as providers, partners, fathers, leaders and influencers of society.

Through the “Frank Dialogues” we are exploring how being a man in Africa influences health agency and acceptance or avoidance of health services. Covering an array of topics, we discover how men feel as users of services and products in the HIV space, including VMMC, antiretroviral therapy (ART), HIV testing services and condoms. Choosing four different African countries also allows us to compare societal differences and commonalities and how these affect men in their respective countries.

The video montage of the “Frank Dialogues” will be shown at different events throughout the conference in Durban and will hopefully stimulate further discussions and help answer the following questions:

How can the global community make the HIV response work better for men? And how can we engage policy makers to develop more effective strategies to better address men’s perspectives and needs in order to improve their heath as well as protect the health of their sexual partners and families.

Watch the video on Youtube.