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When masculinity interferes with women's treatment of HIV infection: a qualitative study about adherence to antiretroviral therapy in Zimbabwe

Skovdal, Morten, Campbell, Catherine, Nyamukapa, Constance and Gregson, Simon (2011) When masculinity interferes with women's treatment of HIV infection: a qualitative study about adherence to antiretroviral therapy in Zimbabwe. Journal of the International AIDS Society, 14 (29). ISSN 1758-2652

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Identification Number: 10.1186/1758-2652-14-29


Background Social constructions of masculinity have been shown to serve as an obstacle to men's access and adherence to antiretroviral therapies (ART). In the light of women's relative lack of power in many aspects of interpersonal relationships with men in many African settings, our objective is to explore how male denial of HIV/AIDS impacts on their female partners' ability to access and adhere to ART. Methods We conducted a qualitative case study involving thematic analysis of 37 individual interviews and five focus groups with a total of 53 male and female antiretroviral drug users and 25 healthcare providers in rural eastern Zimbabwe. Results Rooted in hegemonic notions of masculinity, men saw HIV/AIDS as a threat to their manhood and dignity and exhibited a profound fear of the disease. In the process of denying and avoiding their association with AIDS, many men undermine their wives' efforts to access and adhere to ART. Many women felt unable to disclose their HIV status to their husbands, forcing them to take their medication in secret, and act without a supportive treatment partner, which is widely accepted to be vitally important for adherence success. Some husbands, when discovering that their wives have enrolled themselves in an ART programme, deny them permission to take the drugs, or occasionally steal the drugs for their own treatment. Men's avoidance of HIV also leave many HIV-positive women feeling vulnerable to re-infection as their husbands, in an attempt to demonstrate their manhood, are thought to continue engaging in HIV-risky behaviours. Conclusions Hegemonic notions of masculinity can interfere with women's adherence to ART. It is important that those concerned with promoting effective treatment services recognise the gender and household dynamics that may prevent some women from successfully adhering to ART, and explore ways to work with both women and men to identify couples-based strategies to increase adherence to ART

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2011 The Authors
Divisions: LSE Health
Psychological and Behavioural Science
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DT Africa
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2011 13:09
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 01:52

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