Gender and HIV/AIDS: What do men have to do with it?
Current Sociology 49(6): 23-37
Publication date: 2001
The world is facing an unprecedented crisis as a result of HIV/AIDS.The global epidemic is the most devastating in human history- shortening many lives and affecting the economic and socialstructure of many countries. Central among the factors influencingvulnerability to infection and its consequences are systemsand structures of gender. Dominant ideologies of gender influencehow women and men see themselves and the social relations intowhich they enter. While growing attention is being given tothe position of women in the epidemic, less attention has beenfocused on men. This article explores the usefulness of conceptsof masculinity for our understanding of HIV/AIDS-related riskand vulnerability. It examines the variable nature of masculinity,as well as its dominant, subordinate, alternative and oppositionalforms, and how these impact on the vulnerabilities of men inthis epidemic. It highlights the necessity for a more balancedunderstanding of gender as a set of structures created by, andaffecting, both women and men. Some strategies and options forchange are also discussed.