Articles tagged as "Gender"

The power of love

Power and the association with relationship quality in South African couples: Implications for HIV/AIDS interventions.

Conroy AA, McGrath N, van Rooyen H, Hosegood V, Johnson MO, Fritz K, Marr A, Ngubane T, Darbes LA. Soc Sci Med. 2016 Jan 28;153:1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.01.035. [Epub ahead of print]

Introduction: Power imbalances within sexual relationships have significant implications for HIV prevention in sub-Saharan Africa. Little is known about how power influences the quality of a relationship, which could be an important pathway leading to healthy behavior around HIV/AIDS.

Methods: This paper uses data from 448 heterosexual couples (896 individuals) in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa who completed baseline surveys from 2012 to 2014 as part of a couples-based HIV intervention trial. Using an actor-partner interdependence perspective, we assessed: (1) how both partners' perceptions of power influences their own (i.e., actor effect) and their partner's reports of relationship quality (i.e., partner effect); and (2) whether these associations differed by gender. We examined three constructs related to power (female power, male equitable gender norms, and shared power) and four domains of relationship quality (intimacy, trust, mutually constructive communication, and conflict).

Results: For actor effects, shared power was strongly and consistently associated with higher relationship quality across all four domains. The effect of shared power on trust, mutually constructive communication, and conflict were stronger for men than women. The findings for female power and male equitable gender norms were more mixed. Female power was positively associated with women's reports of trust and mutually constructive communication, but negatively associated with intimacy. Male equitable gender norms were positively associated with men's reports of mutually constructive communication. For partner effects, male equitable gender norms were positively associated with women's reports of intimacy and negatively associated with women's reports of conflict.

Conclusions: Research and health interventions aiming to improving HIV-related behaviors should consider sources of shared power within couples and potential leverage points for empowerment at the couple level. Efforts solely focused on empowering women should also take the dyadic environment and men's perspectives into account to ensure positive relationship outcomes.

 Abstract  Full-text [free] access 

Editor’s notes: This paper reports findings of a study conducted in rural KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa. KwaZulu-Natal has the highest adult HIV prevalence in South Africa of 17%. The study draws on data from 448 couples (896 individuals) that completed a 2012 baseline study of “Uthando Lwethu” – a randomised controlled trial of a couples-based programme to improve relationship dynamics and uptake of couples-based HIV testing and counselling. 

The findings highlight several implications for HIV programmes in sub-Saharan Africa.  They illustrate that gender transformative activities may have a positive effect on relationships, especially where they do not inadvertently conflict with relationship values such as intimacy. The findings also highlight the synergistic potential of gender-focused programmes and couple-based programmes focusing on HIV, to both improve relationships and reduce HIV-associated behavioural risk.  Further, the findings suggest the importance of the construct of shared gender power when considering the prioritisation of resources and efforts for couple-based programmes. This highlights the potential for developing new ways of conceptualising power with couples that go beyond dyadic constructs at the individual level.

Gender
Africa
South Africa
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Gender inequity expressed as infidelity and jealousy by Nicaraguan men

Gender-specific jealousy and infidelity norms as sources of sexual health risk and violence among young coupled Nicaraguans.

Boyce S, Zeledon P, Tellez E, Barrington C. Am J Public Health. 2016 Feb 18:e1-e8. [Epub ahead of print]

Gender inequity negatively affects health in Central America. In 2011, we conducted 60 semistructured interviews and 12 photovoice focus groups with young coupled men and women in Leon, Nicaragua, to explore the ways in which social norms around marriage and gender affect sexual health and gender-based violence. Participants' depictions of their experiences revealed gendered norms around infidelity that provided a narrative to justify male expressions of jealousy, which included limiting partner autonomy, sexual coercion, and physical violence against women, and resulted in increased women's risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. By understanding and taking account of these different narratives and normalized beliefs in developing health- and gender-based violence interventions, such programs might be more effective in promoting gender-equitable attitudes and behaviors among young men and women in Nicaragua.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: This interesting paper explored persistent gender inequity in Nicaragua and its effects on sexual health and experiences of gender-based violence. The authors draw on an understanding that in Nicaragua gender inequity is expressed through local ideas of ‘machismo’, the masculine expectation of dominance over women. This is demonstrated through overemphasized heterosexuality, and aggression, and ‘marianismo’, the feminine expectation of submissiveness, dependence, and sexual naivety. The authors conducted two semi-structured in-depth interviews with 30 young coupled men (n = 15) and women (n = 15) and focus groups with a subsample of women (n= 6) and men (n= 5) who participated in interviews. They also asked these participants to take three photos about a discussion topic, which were discussed at a following session.

Their findings revealed two themes concerning fidelity and jealousy. Participants discussed the social acceptability of infidelity by men, and jealous behaviour by men. Women reported having little power to influence their husbands to remain faithful or to stop being jealous. The authors argue that infidelity and jealousy norms are expressions of gender inequity and impact on women’s risk of sexually transmitted infections, sexual coercion, and violence. These factors reflect constrained female sexuality and economic power. The authors conclude that while gender norms in Nicaragua are changing, progress toward gender equity is slow. Programmes to address gender inequity should frame this in terms of jealousy and infidelity, complemented with structural and systemic programmes to address gender-based social and economic inequities.

Gender
Latin America
Nicaragua
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Treating vaginal infections lowers risk of sexually transmitted bacterial infections

Periodic presumptive treatment for vaginal infections may reduce the incidence of bacterial sexually transmitted infections.

Balkus JE, Manhart LE, Lee J, Anzala O, Kimani J, Schwebke J, Shafi J, Rivers C, Kabare E, McClelland RS. J Infect Dis. 2016 Feb 4. pii: jiw043. [Epub ahead of print]

Background: Bacterial vaginosis (BV) may increase women's susceptibility to sexually transmitted infections (STIs). In a randomized trial of periodic presumptive treatment (PPT) to reduce vaginal infections, we observed a significant reduction in BV. We further assessed the intervention effect on incident Chlamydia trachomatis (CT), Neisseria gonorrhoeae (GC), and Mycoplasma genitalium (MG).

Methods: Non-pregnant, HIV-uninfected women from the US and Kenya received intravaginal metronidazole 750mg plus miconazole 200mg or placebo for 5 consecutive nights each month for 12 months. Genital fluid specimens were collected every other month. Poisson regression models were used to assess the intervention effect on STI acquisition.

Results: Of 234 women enrolled, 221 had specimens available for analysis. Incidence of any bacterial STI (CT, GC, or MG) was lower in the intervention arm compared to placebo (incidence rate ratio [IRR]=0.54, 95% CI 0.32-0.91). When assessed individually, reductions in STIs were similar but not statistically significant (CT:IRR=0.50, 95% CI 0.20-1.23; GC:IRR=0.56, 95% CI 0.19-1.67; MG:IRR=0.66, 95% CI 0.38-1.15).

Conclusions: In addition to reducing BV, this PPT intervention may also reduce women's bacterial STI risk. Because BV is highly prevalent, often persists, and frequently recurs after treatment, interventions that reduce BV over extended periods could play a role in decreasing STI incidence globally.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: Increasing attention is being paid to the health of vaginal microbiota. Disruption of the vaginal microbiota i.e. dysbiosis, is thought to increase susceptibility to other sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. While considerable observational data support the hypothesis of vaginal dysbiosis being a risk factor for sexually transmitted infection, the hypothesis has not been confirmed through randomized control trials. Women in the programme arm of this randomized control trial were presumptively treated for bacterial vaginosis and vulvovaginal candidiasis on a monthly basis. Relative to the control arm, the women in the programme arm had approximately half the risk of infection by Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoea or Mycoplasma genitalium. The findings provide strong evidence for considering healthy vaginal flora as a protective factor from sexually transmitted bacterial infections. Further research must consider whether the protection extends to sexually transmitted viruses and protozoa, and for adolescents and women who are not of African heritage.

Africa, Northern America
Kenya, United States of America
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Inequalities in decision-making and carrying the burden of taking PrEP in serodiscordant relationships

Gendered differences in the perceived risks and benefits of oral PrEP among HIV-serodiscordant couples in Kenya.

Carroll JJ, Ngure K, Heffron R, Curran K, Mugo NR, Baeten JM. AIDS Care. 2016 Jan 11:1-7. [Epub ahead of print]

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is effective for preventing HIV among HIV-serodiscordant heterosexual couples. Gender roles may influence perceived personal and social risks related to HIV-prevention behaviors and may affect use of PrEP. In this study, interviews and focus groups were conducted with 68 individuals from 34 mutually disclosed serodiscordant heterosexual partnerships in Thika, Kenya. Sociocultural factors that affect adherence to PrEP were explored using grounded analysis. Three factors were identified, which shape perceptions of PrEP: gendered power dynamics and control over decision-making in the household; conflicts between risk-reduction strategies and male sexual desire; culture-bound definitions of women's work. Adherence to PrEP in the Partners PrEP Study was high; however, participants articulated conflicting interests related to PrEP in connection with traditional gender roles. The successful delivery of PrEP will require understanding of key social factors, particularly related to gender and dyadic dynamics around HIV serostatus.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: If the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and other biomedical approaches to HIV-prevention are to be rolled out effectively, it is vital to understand the barriers and facilitators for use. In this paper, the authors explore factors that shape perceived risks, benefits and barriers of using oral PrEP and other associated HIV-prevention strategies in Partners PrEP trial in Uganda. The authors identified three themes. Firstly ‘gendered power dynamics and control over decision-making in the household’ highlighted how men and women have different power in decision-making about PrEP use. The majority of women reported that the decision lay with their partner and men reported that they were solely responsible for their decision to use PrEP. However, women said they used subtler ways to exert their decision. Some men suggested that the use of PrEP should be a joint decision. The second theme, ‘conflicts between risk-reduction strategies and male sexual desire’ revealed that use of condoms for HIV prevention conflicted with men’s desire for pleasure, especially for seronegative men. For seropositive women concerns were voiced about men seeking sexual pleasure elsewhere. The third theme of culture-bound definitions of women’s work in the household highlighted how taking PrEP was seen to be ‘labour’ and a household task. HIV-seronegative men thus considered the management of clinic visits and drug regimens to be women’s responsibility and PrEP taking, as men’s burden. Thinking PrEP taking was a burden on men; HIV-seropositive women framed their responsibilities in terms of sacrifices that they made for their families. However, seropositive men did not refer to PrEP as a burden at all.

The authors conclude that while these reported gender differences between partners taking PrEP are stresses, given the high adherence to PrEP in the Partners PrEP trial they did not seem to be a deterrent. This study confirms evidence of gender inequalities in decision-making about the use HIV prevention technologies, including PrEP and condoms. Further, the authors provide new insights into the ‘labour’ discourse of taking medication and attending clinics and illustrate that this burden is seen as women’s work. 

Gender
Africa
Kenya
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Violence experience of women living with HIV: a global study

Violence. Enough already: findings from a global participatory survey among women living with HIV.

Orza L, Bewley S, Chung C, Crone ET, Nagadya H, Vazquez M, Welbourn A. J Int AIDS Soc. 2015 Dec 1;18(6 Suppl 5):20285. doi: 10.7448/IAS.18.6.20285. eCollection 2015.

Introduction: Women living with HIV are vulnerable to gender-based violence (GBV) before and after diagnosis, in multiple settings. This study's aim was to explore how GBV is experienced by women living with HIV, how this affects women's sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and human rights (HR), and the implications for policymakers.

Methods: A community-based, participatory, user-led, mixed-methods study was conducted, with women living with HIV from key affected populations. Simple descriptive frequencies were used for quantitative data. Thematic coding of open qualitative responses was performed and validated with key respondents.

Results: In total, 945 women living with HIV from 94 countries participated in the study. Eighty-nine percent of 480 respondents to an optional section on GBV reported having experienced or feared violence, either before, since and/or because of their HIV diagnosis. GBV reporting was higher after HIV diagnosis (intimate partner, family/neighbours, community and health settings). Women described a complex and iterative relationship between GBV and HIV occurring throughout their lives, including breaches of confidentiality and lack of SRH choice in healthcare settings, forced/coerced treatments, HR abuses, moralistic and judgemental attitudes (including towards women from key populations), and fear of losing child custody. Respondents recommended healthcare practitioners and policymakers address stigma and discrimination, training, awareness-raising, and HR abuses in healthcare settings.

Conclusions: Respondents reported increased GBV with partners and in families, communities and healthcare settings after their HIV diagnosis and across the life-cycle. Measures of GBV must be sought and monitored, particularly within healthcare settings that should be safe. Respondents offered policymakers a comprehensive range of recommendations to achieve their SRH and HR goals. Global guidance documents and policies are more likely to succeed for the end-users if lived experiences are used.

Abstract  Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: Violence against women who are living with HIV is common globally. This paper reports on a study of 832 women living with HIV from 94 countries who participated in an online survey, recruited through a non-random snowball sampling model. The survey comprised quantitative and qualitative (free text) components. Participants included women who had ever or were currently using injection drugs (14%), who had ever or were currently selling sex (14%), and who had ever or were currently homeless (14%). Lifetime experience of violence among respondents was high (86%). Perpetrators included: intimate partner (59%), family member / neighbour (45%), community member (53%), health care workers (53%) and police, military, prison or detention services (17%). Findings suggest that violence is not a one off occurrence and cannot easily be packaged as a cause or a consequence of HIV. Instead violence occurs throughout women’s lives, takes multiple forms, and has a complex and iterative relationship with HIV.

The study population did not represent all women living with HIV, and was biased towards women with internet access who have an activist interest. Nonetheless, the study provides further evidence of the breadth and frequency of gender based violence experienced by women living with HIV. Key recommendations for policy makers include training of health care workers working in sexual and reproductive services to offer non-discriminatory services to women living with HIV and to effectively respond to disclosures of gender based violence (such as intimate partner violence) as part of the package of care.

Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Bolivia, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Ethiopia, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Mexico, Moldova, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Republic of the Congo, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Serbia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Togo, Transdniestria, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States of America, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam, Zambia, Zimbabwe
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Weighing up the risks and benefits of trial participation: understanding non-adherence in a PrEP trial

Participants' explanations for non-adherence in the FEM-PrEP clinical trial.

Corneli A, Perry B, McKenna K, Agot K, Ahmed K, Taylor J, Malamatsho F, Odhiambo J, Skhosana J, Van Damme L. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2015 Nov 3. [Epub ahead of print]

Background: FEM-PrEP - a clinical trial of daily, oral emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate for HIV prevention among women in sub-Saharan Africa - did not show a reduction in HIV acquisition because of low adherence to the study pill. We conducted a follow-up study to identify reasons for non-adherence.

Methods: Qualitative, semi-structured interviews (n=88) and quantitative, audio computer-assisted self-interviews (n=224) were conducted with former FEM-PrEP participants in Bondo, Kenya, and Pretoria, South Africa. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the qualitative data, and descriptive statistics were used to describe ACASI responses. Data are presented within the five categories of Ickovics' and Meisler's conceptual framework on adherence: 1) the individual, 2) trial characteristics and study pill regimen, 3) patient-provider relationship, 4) clinical setting, and 5) the disease.

Results: Participants' explanations for non-adherence were primarily situated within three of the framework's five categories: 1) the individual, 2) trial characteristics and study pill regimen, and 3) the disease. Concerns about the investigational nature of the drug being tested and side effects were the prominent reasons reported for non-adherence. Participants also described being discouraged from taking the study pill by members of the community, their sexual partners, and other participants, primarily because of these same concerns. Limited acceptability of the pill's attributes influenced non-adherence for some participants as did concerns about HIV-related stigma. Additionally, many participants reported that others continued in FEM-PrEP while not taking the study pill because of the trial's ancillary benefits and visit reimbursement - factors related to the clinical setting. Negative patient-provider relationships were infrequently reported as a factor that influenced non-adherence.

Conclusion: Despite substantial study staff engagement with participants and communities, concerns about the study pill and discouragement from others appeared to have influenced non-adherence considerably. Alternative study designs or procedures and enhanced community engagement paradigms may be needed in future studies.

Abstract access 

Editor’s notes: The authors of this important paper on a PrEP trial, end with a note of caution. They note that when interpreting the findings we should remember that the women in this study were taking a ‘study product’. The women were not taking a product of proven efficacy. Therefore, as the authors state, it would be wrong to assume that ‘African women cannot and will not be adherent if provided with PrEP outside of a clinical trial setting’. If they had been told that the product was efficacious, they may have behaved differently. This is important because a key message of the paper is that trial participants managed their participation so they felt comfortable in the trial. Many wanted to ensure they received benefits from their participation, including good health care, but they also wanted to manage risk. Risk associated with fears about the trial drug and risk from the disapproval of sexual partners about their participation. It is also very clear in these findings that the participants could manage the expectations of the trial team, by telling them what they wanted to hear during the trial. This suggests the limited value of ‘adherence questionnaires’ in some settings. The authors provide a powerful illustration of the value of mixed methods in trials of this sort. Drug concentration data told the researchers that many women were not adhering to the drug. Qualitative semi-structured interviews using this drug concentration data with the individual women helped the team to understand why. The authors also discuss the influence of community and family members in undermining participant faith in the trial. They explain the lengths that the trial team went to, to inform community members about the trial. Considerable time was given to sharing information. Doubts remained; concerns that were enough to discourage participation. This too is an important finding underlining the value of investing in community engagement in research. But it also highlights the need to find ways to enhance not just engagement, but also understanding and trust. 

Africa
Kenya, South Africa
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Condoms are highly effective at preventing HSV-2 acquisition, especially for women

Effect of condom use on per-act HSV-2 transmission risk in HIV-1, HSV-2-discordant couples.

Magaret AS, Mujugira A, Hughes JP, Lingappa J, Bukusi EA, DeBruyn G, Delany-Moretlwe S, Fife KH, Gray GE, Kapiga S, Karita E, Mugo NR, Rees H, Ronald A, Vwalika B, Were E, Celum C, Wald A, Partners in Prevention HSVHIVTST. Clin Infect Dis. 2015 Nov 17. pii: civ908. [Epub ahead of print]

Background: The efficacy of condoms for protection against transmission of herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) has been examined in a variety of populations with different effect measures. Often the efficacy has been assessed as change in hazard of transmission with consistent vs inconsistent use, independent of the number of acts. Condom efficacy has not been previously measured on a per-act basis.

Methods: We examined the per-act HSV-2 transmission rates with and without condom use among 911 African HSV-2 and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) serodiscordant couples followed for an average of 18 months in an HIV prevention study. Infectivity models were used to associate the log10 probability of HSV-2 transmission over monthly risk periods with reported numbers of protected and unprotected sex acts. Condom efficacy was computed as the proportionate reduction in transmission risk for protected relative to unprotected sex acts.

Results: Transmission of HSV-2 occurred in 68 couples, including 17 with susceptible women and 51 with susceptible men. The highest rate of transmission was from men to women: 28.5 transmissions per 1000 unprotected sex acts. We found that condoms were differentially protective against HSV-2 transmission by sex; condom use reduced per-act risk of transmission from men to women by 96% (P < .001) and marginally from women to men by 65% (P = .060).

Conclusions: Condoms are recommended as an effective preventive method for heterosexual transmission of HSV-2.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: HSV-2 is extremely prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, and an important co-factor in HIV transmission. Although condoms are recommended for preventing HSV-2 infection, there have been no previous studies of their effectiveness on a per-sex act basis. This study in HIV and HSV-2 discordant couples participating in an HIV prevention trial examined the risk of HSV-2 transmission for each sex act with and without male condoms. At enrolment, index partners were living with both HIV and HSV-2 infections; susceptible partners were negative for both infections.

The authors found that condoms provided greater protection against HSV-2 acquisition for women than for men, reducing the risk of transmission by 96% from men to women, and by 65% from women to men. However, the overall risk of HSV-2 infection was much higher for women – for each condomless sex act, women were nearly 20 times more likely than men to become infected. As a result, even when using condoms, susceptible women had only a slightly lower risk of infection than men did without condoms. Interestingly, HSV-2 suppressive therapy with acyclovir did not have any effect on HSV-2 transmission, for either sex. Although the authors were not able to confirm that the HSV-2 transmissions occurred within the partnership (e.g. by sequencing the HSV2 DNA), an analysis restricted to couples who never reported sex outside the partnership illustrated very similar results.

The difference in the protection provided by condoms between the sexes may be explained by the fact that, in men, HSV-2 viral shedding is primarily from the penile shaft whereas in women the virus is shed from the wider area of the perineum, and hence condoms are less effective for female-male transmission. These findings indicate that, in individuals who are both HIV and HSV-2 positive, male condoms are extremely effective in preventing male-to-female transmission of HSV-2, and also provide some protection against female-to-male transmission. Although condoms may not provide the same level of protection in populations who are HIV negative, their promotion remains an important public health activity for preventing HSV-2 infection.

Africa
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You’re not a man until you’re a father. Young men’s desire for fatherhood and HIV-associated risk

Fatherhood, marriage and HIV risk among young men in rural Uganda.

Mathur, S, Higgins, J. A, Thummalachetty N, Rasmussen, M, Kelley, L, Nakyanjo, N, Nalugoda, F, Santelli, J. S, Cult Health Sex 2015 Nov 5:1-15 (Epub ahead of print)

Compared to a large body of work on how gender may affect young women’s vulnerability to HIV, we know little about how masculine ideals and practices relating to marriage and fertility desires shape young men’s HIV risk. Using life-history interview data with 30 HIV-positive and HIV-negative young men aged 15–24 years, this analysis offers an in-depth perspective on young men’s transition through adolescence, the desire for fatherhood and experience of sexual partnerships in rural Uganda. Young men consistently reported the desire for fatherhood as a cornerstone of masculinity and transition to adulthood. Ideally young men wanted children within socially sanctioned unions. Yet, most young men were unable to realise their marital intentions. Gendered expectations to be economic providers combined with structural constraints, such as limited access to educational and income-generating opportunities, led some young men to engage in a variety of HIV-risk behaviours. Multiple partnerships and limited condom use were at times an attempt by some young men to attain some part of their aspirations related to fatherhood and marriage. Our findings suggest that young men possess relationship and parenthood aspirations that – in an environment of economic scarcity – may influence HIV-related risk.

Abstract access

Editor’s notes: Gender-specific HIV risks are influenced by biological, social and structural factors. In comparison to factors that affect women’s HIV risk, relatively little is known about how constructions on masculinity affect men’s HIV risk, particularly with relation to young men’s desire for marriage and biological children. In the context meeting fertility ideals, men’s demonstration of masculinity within structural contexts of social change and economic instability, may be associated with certain risk behaviours, including multiple partnerships and inconsistent condom use.

This study utilised data from in-depth life history interviews with 30 HIV-positive and HIV-negative young men aged 15-24 years in southern Uganda. Young men who had acquired bio-medically confirmed HIV over the course of the year between June 2010 and June 2011 and their HIV-negative counterparts were pair-matched by gender, marital status, age and village of residence. The sample included married (n=10), never married (n=16) and previously married men (n=4). Respondents participated in two interviews, approximately two to three weeks apart. Interviews were audio recorded.

Three major themes emerged from the interviews. First, respondents mentioned fatherhood and formal marriage as milestones in the transition to adulthood for young men and a crucial part of the masculine ideal in rural Uganda. Second, truncated educational options and limited economic opportunities made it difficult for young men to acquire formal marriages and fulfil their desires for fatherhood. Third, young men who faced obstacles in trying to achieve these masculine ideals often engaged in alternative strategies, such as condomless sex or having multiple partners, to fulfil their desires for marriage and children; these strategies in turn increased young men’s vulnerability to HIV infection. Regardless of their HIV status young men consistently expressed their desire for marriage and children; described similar economic challenges, and pursued alternative strategies for achieving their masculine ideals. The findings of this study illustrate how the confluence of idealised male masculinities and structural inequalities may play a key role in young men’s vulnerability to HIV.

Africa
Uganda
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Benefits of available ART greater for women than men in South Africa, with many men not engaging with care

Mass HIV treatment and sex disparities in life expectancy: demographic surveillance in rural South Africa.

Bor J, Rosen S, Chimbindi N, Haber N, Herbst K, Mutevedzi T, Tanser F, Pillay D, Bärnighausen T. PLoS Med. 2015 Nov 24;12(11):e1001905. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001905. eCollection 2015.

Background: Women have better patient outcomes in HIV care and treatment than men in sub-Saharan Africa. We assessed - at the population level - whether and to what extent mass HIV treatment is associated with changes in sex disparities in adult life expectancy, a summary metric of survival capturing mortality across the full cascade of HIV care. We also determined sex-specific trends in HIV mortality and the distribution of HIV-related deaths in men and women prior to and at each stage of the clinical cascade.

Methods and findings: Data were collected on all deaths occurring from 2001 to 2011 in a large population-based surveillance cohort (52 964 women and 45 688 men, ages 15 y and older) in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Cause of death was ascertained by verbal autopsy (93% response rate). Demographic data were linked at the individual level to clinical records from the public sector HIV treatment and care program that serves the region. Annual rates of HIV-related mortality were assessed for men and women separately, and female-to-male rate ratios were estimated in exponential hazard models. Sex-specific trends in adult life expectancy and HIV-cause-deleted adult life expectancy were calculated. The proportions of HIV deaths that accrued to men and women at different stages in the HIV cascade of care were estimated annually. Following the beginning of HIV treatment scale-up in 2004, HIV mortality declined among both men and women. Female adult life expectancy increased from 51.3 y (95% CI 49.7, 52.8) in 2003 to 64.5 y (95% CI 62.7, 66.4) in 2011, a gain of 13.2 y. Male adult life expectancy increased from 46.9 y (95% CI 45.6, 48.2) in 2003 to 55.9 y (95% CI 54.3, 57.5) in 2011, a gain of 9.0 y. The gap between female and male adult life expectancy doubled, from 4.4 y in 2003 to 8.6 y in 2011, a difference of 4.3 y (95% CI 0.9, 7.6). For women, HIV mortality declined from 1.60 deaths per 100 person-years (95% CI 1.46, 1.75) in 2003 to 0.56 per 100 person-years (95% CI 0.48, 0.65) in 2011. For men, HIV-related mortality declined from 1.71 per 100 person-years (95% CI 1.55, 1.88) to 0.76 per 100 person-years (95% CI 0.67, 0.87) in the same period. The female-to-male rate ratio for HIV mortality declined from 0.93 (95% CI 0.82-1.07) in 2003 to 0.73 (95% CI 0.60-0.89) in 2011, a statistically significant decline (p = 0.046). In 2011, 57% and 41% of HIV-related deaths occurred among men and women, respectively, who had never sought care for HIV in spite of the widespread availability of free HIV treatment. The results presented here come from a poor rural setting in southern Africa with high HIV prevalence and high HIV treatment coverage; broader generalizability is unknown. Additionally, factors other than HIV treatment scale-up may have influenced population mortality trends.

Conclusions: Mass HIV treatment has been accompanied by faster declines in HIV mortality among women than men and a growing female-male disparity in adult life expectancy at the population level. In 2011, over half of male HIV deaths occurred in men who had never sought clinical HIV care. Interventions to increase HIV testing and linkage to care among men are urgently needed.

Abstract Full-text [free] access

Editor’s notes: In South Africa and many other sub-Saharan African countries, mass treatment with anti-retroviral therapy (ART) has led to dramatic decreases in mortality and increases in life expectancy. South Africa has provided ART free-of-charge since 2004, but HIV-associated diseases remain the leading cause of death in adults. This paper uses clinical and demographic data from a longitudinal cohort in a rural area of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa to assess how gender differences in adult life expectancy and HIV-associated mortality changed between 2001 and 2011.

Overall life expectancy increased for both genders since 2004 with the effect significantly greater for females than males. The gender differential in life expectancy over the period 2004-2011 increased from 4.4 to 8.6 years. The analysis illustrates that this decrease was due to decreases in HIV-associated mortality rates, as HIV-cause-deleted life expectancy (i.e. life expectancy that would have occurred in the absence of HIV) remained constant over this period.

This study emphasizes the HIV treatment gap for men, with approximately half of all HIV-associated deaths in this population occurred among men who had never sought care. Mortality for men was significantly higher than that for women at each stage of the treatment cascade.

Although this study draws on data from one rural setting, many of the underlying characteristics reflect those seen in many other rural areas of the country. Further work is necessary to understand the underlying social and cultural factors that underlie these findings which could then lead to the development of programmes designed to address them. Such cross-disciplinary research which engages with people designing and implementing HIV programmes will need to be significantly enhanced over the coming decade in order to meet the UNAIDS 90:90:90 targets.

Africa
South Africa
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Client violence against female sex workers in Mexico

Prevalence and correlates of client-perpetrated violence against female sex workers in 13 Mexican cities.

Semple SJ, Stockman JK, Pitpitan EV, Strathdee SA, Chavarin CV, Mendoza DV, Aarons GA, Patterson TL. PLoS One. 2015 Nov 23;10(11):e0143317. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0143317. eCollection 2015.

Background: Globally, client-perpetrated violence against female sex workers (FSWs) has been associated with multiple health-related harms, including high-risk sexual behavior and increased exposure to HIV/STIs. This study examined correlates of client-perpetrated sexual, physical, and economic violence (e.g., robbery) against FSWs in 13 cities throughout Mexico.

Methods: FSWs (N = 1089) who were enrolled in a brief, evidence-based, sexual risk reduction intervention for FSWs (Mujer Segura) were interviewed about their work context, including experiences of violence perpetrated by clients, sexual risk and substance use practices, financial need, and social supports. Three broad categories of factors (sociodemographic, work context, behavioral and social characteristics of FSWs) were examined as correlates of sexual, physical, and economic violence.

Results: The prevalence of different types of client-perpetrated violence against FSWs in the past 6 months was: sexual (11.7%), physical (11.8%), economic (16.9%), and any violence (22.6%). Greater financial need, self-identification as a street worker, and lower perceived emotional support were independently associated with all three types of violence. Alcohol use before or during sex with clients in the past month was associated with physical and sexual violence. Using drugs before or during sex with clients, injection drug use in the past month, and population size of city were associated with sexual violence only, and FSWs' alcohol use score (AUDIT-C) was associated with economic violence only.

Conclusions: Correlates of client-perpetrated violence encompassed sociodemographic, work context, and behavioral and social factors, suggesting that approaches to violence prevention for FSWs must be multi-dimensional. Prevention could involve teaching FSWs strategies for risk avoidance in the workplace (e.g., avoiding use of alcohol with clients), enhancement of FSWs' community-based supports, development of interventions that deliver an anti-violence curriculum to clients, and programs to address FSWs' financial need by increasing their economic opportunities outside of the sex trade.

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Editor’s notes: Violence against women who sell sex is receiving increasing attention. Perpetrators include clients, police, strangers, local thugs and husbands or intimate (non-paying) partners. This study from Mexico examined physical, sexual and emotional violence by clients among female sex workers in 13 cities in Mexico. Violence by clients was common (22.6% any violence, past six months) and similar to rates reported in other countries. Violence exposure was associated with greater financial need, street sex work, and lower perceived emotional support. Sexual and physical violence were also associated with alcohol use. Alcohol use, street sex work and debt have been associated with violence exposure among female sex workers in other low and middle income settings. This research supports a growing body of evidence which suggests that violence prevention should be a key element in services designed for and with female sex workers. Successful violence and HIV prevention programming will need to address the broader structural determinants of vulnerability such as poverty, sex work structure (typology), stigma and discrimination, and associated alcohol and drug use.  

Latin America
Mexico
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