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RAISA Yebo - March 2003 issue
Regional AIDS Initiative
of Southern Africa/VSO
a initiative of VSO, which seeks to strengthen the response to the
HIV/AIDS pandemic in Southern Africa through Government Institutions,
Civil Society and NGOs.
Each year VSO
RAISA holds a regional thematic conference for partners. This year
the conference's theme was "Men, HIV & AIDS" and it
was held from 11 to 14 February in Pretoria, South Africa. RAISA
planned for 45 participants, but because of the high demand RAISA
extended the number to 80! Here follows a short report by Mercedes
At the three-day
conference, organised by the Regional AIDS Initiative of Southern
Africa of Voluntary Services Overseas (RAISA/VSO), activists and
researchers from Southern and East Africa explored issues of male
involvement in the pandemic.
agreed that the concept and practice of masculinity needed to be
reconstructed in ways that fit new socio-economic realities, from
rural-urban migration to women's advancement, AIDS and unemployment.
A new way of perceiving manhood would empower men to experience
their sexuality differently and to take active community responsibility.
surveys presented at the conference showed that men and boys across
the spectrum of race and class feel disoriented by socio-cultural
changes taking place in Southern Africa.
system has lessened men's role as decision-makers," said Douglas
Kabanda, a social scientist with the Promotion of Traditional Medicine
Association of South Africa.
The sense of
displacement and irrelevance, coupled with unemployment and poverty,
undermines male self-esteem. It leads to sexual behaviour that puts
them and their partners at risk of HIV/AIDS, such as promiscuity,
irregular or no condom use, violence and alcohol and drug abuse.
Many, if not
most men do not engage in such behaviour. But they have little visibility
in the predominant discourse of "men as drivers of the epidemic",
male images channeled by the media and by society "are internalised
by young men, turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy," said
Sebastian Matroos, of the Youth Skills Development Programme of
the Centre for the Study of AIDS at the University of Pretoria.
with marginalised young men - unemployed, drug addicts, drag queens
and male sex workers - in Pretoria townships. "There is more
rejection than inclusion with the result that young men feel blamed
for all social evils and withdraw," he explained.
the relationship in masculinity and HIV risk is about far more than
just changes in behaviour and technology, but rather about transformation
in the very identity of men," argued Graham Lindegger, of the
School of Psychology at Natal University, in KwaZulu-Natal, South
the major findings of a study on how masculinity is constructed
and maintained in South African schools and the effects of race
and class on these constructions. The overall finding for all types
of schools is, in the words of a principal that "our boys seem
to be lost".
On the positive
side, several AIDS interventions in the region report some success
in involving men in non-traditional ways.
In Malawi and
Zambia, two home-based AIDS care programmes in villages are succeeding
in recruiting men as volunteer caregivers, which traditionally has
been a woman's job.
Out of 600 caregivers
in 52 villages, 200 are men, reported the Tovwirane AIDS Association,
which works in Nsimba district in northern Malawi.
addressed often marginalised issues, such as male-to-male sex in
prisons, risk behaviour among drug users, the sexuality of young
black gay men in townships, male sex workers and male rape.
theme was the need to shed the "macho" image and allow
men to express, not repress, their feelings. "Nelson Mandela
cried when he announced his divorce and when he visited his mother's
grave. This is a powerful role model that men can identify with,"
said Mbuyiselo Botha, of South Africa Men's Forum.
Summing up the
conference, Brett Anderson, a Cape Town-based AIDS activist who
is HIV+, said: "Men should think not about what we stand to
lose but what we stand to gain."
feedback from some of the countries
- ‘We miss you all’, Noerine Kaleeba,
SAFAIDS, ISBN 0 7974 2525 X
- ‘Men and HIV in Lesotho’, SAfAIDS,
- ‘Men and HIV in Zimbabwe’, SAfAIDS,
PANOS, UNAIDS 2001
- ‘Partners for Change’, UNFPA, ISBN
0 89714 592 5
- ‘Gender mainstreaming in HIV/AIDS,
taking a multi sectoral approach’. Commonwealth secretarial Publisher.
ISBN 0 85092 655 6
If you would like a conference report
you can contact your country RAISA co-ordinator, see email addresses
under the countries feedback.
RAISA would like to acknowledge the
generous donation of materials from SAfAIDS towards the conference.
If you would like to give feedback on the content of the SAfAIDS
materials, or if you would like more information contact email@example.com
the VSO Zimbabwe fact sheet
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