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      Gender and sexuality: emerging perspectives from the heterosexual epidemic in South Africa and implications for HIV risk and prevention

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      Journal of the International AIDS Society

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          Abstract

          Research shows that gender power inequity in relationships and intimate partner violence places women at enhanced risk of HIV infection. Men who have been violent towards their partners are more likely to have HIV. Men's behaviours show a clustering of violent and risky sexual practices, suggesting important connections. This paper draws on Raewyn Connell's notion of hegemonic masculinity and reflections on emphasized femininities to argue that these sexual, and male violent, practices are rooted in and flow from cultural ideals of gender identities. The latter enables us to understand why men and women behave as they do, and the emotional and material context within which sexual behaviours are enacted.

          In South Africa, while gender identities show diversity, the dominant ideal of black African manhood emphasizes toughness, strength and expression of prodigious sexual success. It is a masculinity women desire; yet it is sexually risky and a barrier to men engaging with HIV treatment. Hegemonically masculine men are expected to be in control of women, and violence may be used to establish this control. Instead of resisting this, the dominant ideal of femininity embraces compliance and tolerance of violent and hurtful behaviour, including infidelity.

          The women partners of hegemonically masculine men are at risk of HIV because they lack control of the circumstances of sex during particularly risky encounters. They often present their acquiescence to their partners' behaviour as a trade off made to secure social or material rewards, for this ideal of femininity is upheld, not by violence per se, by a cultural system of sanctions and rewards. Thus, men and women who adopt these gender identities are following ideals with deep roots in social and cultural processes, and thus, they are models of behaviour that may be hard for individuals to critique and in which to exercise choice. Women who are materially and emotionally vulnerable are least able to risk experiencing sanctions or foregoing these rewards and thus are most vulnerable to their men folk.

          We argue that the goals of HIV prevention and optimizing of care can best be achieved through change in gender identities, rather than through a focus on individual sexual behaviours.

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          Most cited references 31

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          Effect of a structural intervention for the prevention of intimate-partner violence and HIV in rural South Africa: a cluster randomised trial.

          HIV infection and intimate-partner violence share a common risk environment in much of southern Africa. The aim of the Intervention with Microfinance for AIDS and Gender Equity (IMAGE) study was to assess a structural intervention that combined a microfinance programme with a gender and HIV training curriculum. Villages in the rural Limpopo province of South Africa were pair-matched and randomly allocated to receive the intervention at study onset (intervention group, n=4) or 3 years later (comparison group, n=4). Loans were provided to poor women who enrolled in the intervention group. A participatory learning and action curriculum was integrated into loan meetings, which took place every 2 weeks. Both arms of the trial were divided into three groups: direct programme participants or matched controls (cohort one), randomly selected 14-35-year-old household co-residents (cohort two), and randomly selected community members (cohort three). Primary outcomes were experience of intimate-partner violence--either physical or sexual--in the past 12 months by a spouse or other sexual intimate (cohort one), unprotected sexual intercourse at last occurrence with a non-spousal partner in the past 12 months (cohorts two and three), and HIV incidence (cohort three). Analyses were done on a per-protocol basis. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT00242957. In cohort one, experience of intimate-partner violence was reduced by 55% (adjusted risk ratio [aRR] 0.45, 95% CI 0.23-0.91; adjusted risk difference -7.3%, -16.2 to 1.5). The intervention did not affect the rate of unprotected sexual intercourse with a non-spousal partner in cohort two (aRR 1.02, 0.85-1.23), and there was no effect on the rate of unprotected sexual intercourse at last occurrence with a non-spousal partner (0.89, 0.66-1.19) or HIV incidence (1.06, 0.66-1.69) in cohort three. A combined microfinance and training intervention can lead to reductions in levels of intimate-partner violence in programme participants. Social and economic development interventions have the potential to alter risk environments for HIV and intimate-partner violence in southern Africa.
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            Probability of HIV-1 transmission per coital act in monogamous, heterosexual, HIV-1-discordant couples in Rakai, Uganda.

             T VanCott,  ,  Xiaohui Li (2001)
            The probability of HIV-1 transmission per coital act in representative African populations is unknown. We aimed to calculate this probability overall, and to estimate how it is affected by various factors thought to influence infectivity. 174 monogamous couples, in which one partner was HIV-1 positive, were retrospectively identified from a population cohort in Rakai, Uganda. Frequency of intercourse and reliability of reporting within couples was assessed prospectively. HIV-1 seroconversion was determined in the uninfected partners, and HIV-1 viral load was measured in the infected partners. Adjusted rate ratios of transmission per coital act were estimated by Poisson regression. Probabilities of transmission per act were estimated by log-log binomial regression for quartiles of age and HIV-1 viral load, and for symptoms or diagnoses of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the HIV-1-infected partners. The mean frequency of intercourse was 8.9 per month, which declined with age and HIV-1 viral load. Members of couples reported similar frequencies of intercourse. The overall unadjusted probability of HIV-1 transmission per coital act was 0.0011 (95% CI 0.0008-0.0015). Transmission probabilities increased from 0.0001 per act at viral loads of less than 1700 copies/mL to 0.0023 per act at 38 500 copies/mL or more (p=0.002), and were 0.0041 with genital ulceration versus 0.0011 without (p=0.02). Transmission probabilities per act did not differ significantly by HIV-1 subtypes A and D, sex, STDs, or symptoms of discharge or dysuria in the HIV-1-positive partner. Higher viral load and genital ulceration are the main determinants of HIV-1 transmission per coital act in this Ugandan population.
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              Outcomes after two years of providing antiretroviral treatment in Khayelitsha, South Africa.

              A community-based antiretroviral therapy (ART) programme was established in 2001 in a South African township to explore the operational issues involved in providing ART in the public sector in resource-limited settings and demonstrate the feasibility of such a service. Data was analysed on a cohort of patients with symptomatic HIV disease and a CD4 lymphocyte count or =50 x 10 cells/l, and 81.8% for those with a baseline CD4 lymphocyte count < 50 x 10 cells/l. The cumulative probability of changing a single antiretroviral drug by 24 months was 15.1% due to adverse events or contraindications, and 8.4% due to adverse events alone. ART can be provided in resource-limited settings with good patient retention and clinical outcomes. With responsible implementation, ART is a key component of a comprehensive response to the epidemic in those communities most affected by HIV.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                J Int AIDS Soc
                Journal of the International AIDS Society
                BioMed Central
                1758-2652
                2010
                9 February 2010
                : 13
                : 6
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Gender & Health Research Unit, Medical Research Council, Private Bag X3985, Pretoria 0001 South Africa
                [2 ]Research Office, University of Cape Town, P/Bag, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa
                Article
                1758-2652-13-6
                10.1186/1758-2652-13-6
                2828994
                20181124
                dd37affb-46bb-4156-ac21-d38cc8499d12
                Copyright ©2010 Jewkes and Morrell; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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                Infectious disease & Microbiology

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