The past decade has witnessed much attention on the interrelationship between accepted gender norms and reproductive health (RH) outcomes in the context of HIV/AIDS. After decades of ignoring men in RH programmes, attention is now focusing on actively involving men in interrogating gender norms underpinning gender-based violence (GBV) in the context of RH and HIV/AIDS prevention, care and support activities. However, there are challenges in addressing gender norms and in male involvement. The purpose of this article is to highlight existing evidence-based efforts to challenge gender norms and promote constructive male involvement, with a special focus on South Africa; to present findings on effectiveness of gender and male-focused RH programmes; and to identify knowledge and programme design-related gaps.
This article argues that addressing biased gender norms and masculinities in an RH/HIV policy and programme context will contribute to the improvement of the health and rights of women and children, as well as of men. However, achievement of these goals will be limited by a failure to address broader structural factors such as poverty and unemployment that shape gender relations and RH/HIV outcomes. This will require getting RH/HIV interventions ‘out of the health box’ and into the arena of socio-economic development in collaboration with agencies working in these areas.