AbstractsWomens Studies

Shifting focus from individuals to institutions| The role of gendered health institutions on men's use of HIV services

by Kathryn Dovel

Institution: University of Colorado at Denver
Year: 2016
Keywords: Public health; Sub Saharan Africa studies; Social structure; Gender studies; Health care management
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2104765
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Men in sub-Saharan Africa are less likely than women to use HIV services and, thus, are more likely to die from AIDS. While much of the literature argues that men’s views of masculinity keep them from services, I use the theory of gendered organizations to provide another perspective. In this dissertation, I use a mixed methods approach to examine the gendered organization of facility-based HIV testing services in southern Malawi and how the organization of services creates additional barriers to men’s use of care. I combine four types of data: (1) survey data with facility clients to assess if quality of care differs by sex of client; (2) in-depth interviews with healthcare providers and policy makers to examine perceptions of men as clients; (3) participant observation in health facilities to understand how institutional protocols are enacted at the local level; and (4) international and national policy documents to situate local health institutions within broader global constructs of gender and HIV priorities. I find that heterosexual men have become an invisible category within both international and national HIV policy. When they are included, they are described as the problem, not part of the solution to HIV epidemics. On the ground, the organization of HIV testing services has followed suit. Health institutions, like other organizations, are not gender-neutral. Men in southern Malawi were not recruited for health services, were less likely than women to receive health education when they did attend a facility, and were less likely to have access to HIV testing because services were, at times, only offered during hours for antenatal services. Furthermore, HIV testing was often located near antenatal services, again contributing to the perception that testing was designed for women – because it was. Based on these findings, I argue that HIV testing is gendered across three levels of the health institution: (1) the organizational HIV policies; (2) the physical environment in which testing occurs; and (3) interactions within facilities that require clients to enact qualities typically viewed as feminine in order to successfully receive care (e.g., waiting long hours, being compliant, and being a caregiver).