How a masculine work ethic and economic circumstances affect uptake of HIV treatment: experiences of men from an artisanal gold mining community in rural eastern Uganda
Siu, Godfrey E
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BACKGROUND: Current data from Uganda indicate that, compared to women, men are under-represented in HIV treatment, seek treatment later and have a higher mortality while on antiretroviral therapy (ART). By focusing on a masculine work ethic as one of the most predominant expressions of masculinity, this study explores why for some men HIV treatment enhances their masculinity while for others it undermines masculine work identity, leading them to discontinue the treatment. METHODS: Participant observation and 26 in-depth interviews with men were conducted in a gold mining village in Eastern Uganda between August 2009 and August 2010. Interviewees included men who were taking HIV treatment, who had discontinued treatment, who suspected HIV infection but had not sought testing, or who had other symptoms unrelated to HIV infection. RESULTS: Many participants reported spending large proportions of their income, alleviating symptoms prior to confirming their HIV infection. This seriously undermined their sense of masculinity gained from providing for their families. Disclosing HIV diagnosis and treatment to employers and work colleagues could reduce job offers and/or collaborative work, as colleagues feared working with ‘‘ill’’ people. Drug side-effects affected work, leading some men to discontinue the treatment. Despite being on ART, some men believed their health remained fragile, leading them to opt out of hard work, contradicting their reputation as hard workers. However, some men on treatment talked about ‘‘resurrecting’’ due to ART and linked their current abilities to work again to good adherence. For some men, it was work colleagues who suggested testing and treatment-seeking following symptoms. CONCLUSIONS: The central role of a work ethic in expressing masculinity can both encourage and discourage men’s treatment-seeking for AIDS. HIV testing and treatment may be sought in order to improve health and get back to work, thereby in the process regaining one’s masculine reputation as a hard worker and provider for one’s family. However, disclosure can affect opportunities for work and drug side-effects disrupt one’s ability to labour, undermining the sense of masculinity gained from work. HIV support organizations need to recognize how economic and gender concerns impact on treatment decisions and help men deal with work-related fears.