Gendered perceptions of HIV risk among young women and men in a high-HIV-prevalence setting

  • Marisa Casale
  • Michael Rogan
  • Michaela Hynie
  • Sarah Flicker
  • Stephanie Nixon
  • Clara Rubincam

Abstract

It has become evident that sexual health and HIV-risk behaviours cannot be addressed effectively without paying adequate attention to constructions of gender and sexuality. While the body of literature examining these themes is growing and becoming more nuanced, there is still a significant gap in our understanding of the relationship between gendered sexual identities and vulnerabilities to disease. In particular, few studies have explored how youths themselves perceive this relationship, and how these perceptions may differ among males and females. The purpose of this study was to investigate the differing ‘gendered’ perceptions of HIV risk among young women and men in a  high-HIV-prevalence community in South Africa. Five focus groups were conducted with youths involved with a local school-based HIV-prevention  programme in a resource-deprived, peri-urban community in KwaZulu-Natal Province. The data were recorded, transcribed, translated and thematically coded. We used a critical social science approach to inform our collaborative analysis. The findings reveal diverse understandings of the relationship between gender and HIV risk. The majority of the participants felt that females are more vulnerable to HIV as a result of gender inequalities; a minority felt that males are more vulnerable because of limited perceived control over their sex drive. Others felt that both sexes are equally vulnerable because ‘the virus doesn’t have a friend.’ The theme of ‘responsibility for spreading HIV’ emerged  inductively from the data and also involved multiple understandings of gendered responsibility. Explicitly engaging with youths in targeted discussions on  gendered HIV-related vulnerability and responsibility can offer an opportunity to  challenge stereotypes and gender inequities, as well as inform interventions.

Keywords: gender, intervention, prevention, qualitative research, sexuality, South Africa, youths

African Journal of AIDS Research 2011, 10(supplement): 301–310

Author Biographies

Marisa Casale
Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division (HEARD), University of KwaZulu-Natal, Level 4, J Block, Westville Campus, Durban 4041, South Africa
Michael Rogan
University of KwaZulu-Natal, School of Development Studies, Memorial Tower Building, King George V Avenue, Howard College Campus, Durban 4041, South Africa
Michaela Hynie
York University, Department of Psychology, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3, Canada
Sarah Flicker
York University, Department of Psychology, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3, Canada
Stephanie Nixon
Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division (HEARD), University of KwaZulu-Natal, Level 4, J Block, Westville Campus, Durban 4041, South Africa
Clara Rubincam
Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division (HEARD), University of KwaZulu-Natal, Level 4, J Block, Westville Campus, Durban 4041, South Africa
Section
Articles

Journal Identifiers


eISSN: 1608-5906
print ISSN: 1727-9445