Formerly the ‘HIV in Men’ portfolio, the Masculinities Research portfolio conducts research to inform evidence-based interventions to promote positive masculinity in relation to sexual & reproductive health (SRH) and health agency more broadly.
In addition to affecting girls/women and children, harmful constructs of masculinity negatively affect boys/men. For example, harmful masculinities promote ideas of “manhood” that are predicated on taking risks, being tough and not seeking help. Such norms contribute to boys’/men’s higher rates of road traffic injuries and deaths, homicides, smoking and alcohol abuse, unsafe sexual behaviours as well as not seeking timely care for various health conditions. Using HIV as an example, men are much less likely than women to have ever taken an HIV test. Further, although some countries are on track to achieve the UNAIDS 90-90-90 HIV targets for 2020, it is because HIV programmes for women are doing so well; men in many settings are far from achieving these targets. Men’s lack of engagement with both prevention and care has the potential to undo the overall HIV gains made so far. The same pattern is also evident in relation to the spread of SARS-CoV-2; despite being more at risk of severe morbidity and mortality from Covid-19, men are less likely than women to wear a mask, wash hands frequently, practise social distancing or seek help early, all of which increase their own and others risk.
The Masculinities Research portfolio is currently being broadened to focus beyond HIV and SRH to include non-communicable diseases (where poor engagement of men in care is also of critical importance) and other themes (e.g. men’s engagement in maternal and child health). An evaluation we conducted in Tanzania and Zimbabwe highlighted the importance of improved couples’ relationships – both as a wellbeing outcome valued by men and women, and as a contributor to the effectiveness of male involvement interventions.