Masculinity, social context and HIV testing: an ethnographic study of men in Busia district, rural eastern Uganda

Siu, G. E., Wight, D. and Seeley, J. A. (2014) Masculinity, social context and HIV testing: an ethnographic study of men in Busia district, rural eastern Uganda. BMC Public Health, 14(33), (doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-33)

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Abstract

Background Uptake of HIV testing by men remains low in high prevalence settings in many parts of Africa. By focusing on masculinity, this study explores the social context and relations that shape men’s access to HIV testing in Mam-Kiror, Busia district, rural eastern Uganda.

Methods From 2009–2010 in-depth interviews were undertaken with 26 men: nine being treated for HIV, eight who had tested but dropped out of treatment, six not tested but who suspected HIV infection and three with other health problems unrelated to HIV. These data were complemented by participant observation. Thematic analysis was undertaken.

Results There were two main categories of masculinity in Mam-Kiror, one based on ‘reputation’ and the other on ‘respectability’, although some of their ideals overlapped. The different forms of masculine esteem led to different motives for HIV testing. Men positioned HIV testing as a social process understood within the social context and relationships men engaged in rather than an entirely self-determined enterprise. Wives’ inferior power meant that they had less influence on men’s testing compared to friends and work colleagues who discussed frankly HIV risk and testing. Couple testing exposed men’s extra-marital relationships, threatening masculine esteem. The fear to undermine opportunities for sex in the context of competition for partners was a barrier to testing by men. The construction of men as resilient meant that they delayed to admit to problems and seek testing. However, the respectable masculine ideal to fulfil responsibilities and obligations to family was a strong motivator to seeking an HIV test and treatment by men.

Conclusion The two main forms of masculine ideals prevailing in Mam-Kiror in Busia led men to have different motives for HIV testing. Reputational masculinity was largely inconsistent with the requirements of couple testing, community outreach testing and the organisation of testing services, discouraging men from testing. Conversely, concern to perform one’s family roles as a respectable man meant accessing treatment to extend one’s life, which encouraged men to test. HIV support agencies should reflect on how various testing options might marginalise men from seeking testing services and address the barriers that hinder access.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Wight, Professor Danny
Authors: Siu, G. E., Wight, D., and Seeley, J. A.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:BMC Public Health
Publisher:BioMed Central
ISSN:1471-2458
ISSN (Online):1471-2458
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2014 The Authors
First Published:First published in BMC Public Health 14(33)
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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