While the link between gender inequality and HIV vulnerability is recognized, current programming often focuses on women and girls, with limited attention to the role that men can play in addressing gender inequality and harmful gender norms that lead to negative health outcomes for everyone. Programmes are not taking into consideration men in all their diversity and nor are they exploring ways to sensitize men and boys. We need to do a better job of addressing this as part of a comprehensive HIV response.
At my organization, Movement of Men against AIDS in Kenya, we try to do things differently by involving boys and men as our target group from the initial phase of the programme design and planning process. This approach is used to strengthen and create sustainable responses that are owned by the men and boys. The same group is then trained on how to: engage peers using evidence-based interventions and strategies that adopt and use gender-transformative approaches; advocate for male-friendly services in the workplace and community; and support men living with HIV to advocate for engaging men in HIV services and to build capacity of the target beneficiaries through a peer-to-peer approach.
We provide a broad range of services, including HIV testing targeting men and their partners, psychosocial support groups for men, women and youth, and home-based care. In addition, we have developed specific programmes to strengthen families: we engage men in reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health services, in the elimination of vertical HIV transmission, and in care and support programmes for orphaned and vulnerable children. Women safety initiatives and integrated HIV and gender-based violence prevention programmes are also part of our portfolio.
Improving access to and uptake of HIV services among men and boys more broadly will only be possible if future programming efforts recognize that it is necessary to seek out men for HIV testing, care and treatment delivery in a variety of settings. These efforts will also have to use mechanisms that take into consideration the local culture and socio-economic context, as well as gender roles and dynamics in families and partnerships.