A growing body of evidence highlights that well-implemented programmes targeting men and boys can influence their attitudes, behaviours and their role as agents of change in the achievement of gender equality. This has benefits for women, children and men themselves. It is well acknowledged that gender inequalities cause women and girls to be more vulnerable to contracting HIV and evidence shows that engaging men for gender equality directly impacts on the spread and effects of HIV and AIDS. Given the enormous potential that men can play in curbing the spread and burden of HIV and AIDS, working with men and boys is integral to addressing gender inequalities, strengthening human rights and to improving the health and wellbeing of both men and women.
While small-scale interventions exist to engage men in HIV prevention and treatment, a shared policy agenda on this issue among civil society, and national and regional policy makers is central to scaling-up this work and effecting significant changes in gender norms. Recognising this, Sonke Gender Justice undertook a detailed analysis of the HIV/AIDS and STI Strategic Plan for South Africa (2007–2011) during 2010. This formed part of Sonke’s broader and ongoing scan of national strategic plans (NSPs) from around the world, as well as the HIV policies of regional bodies.
The main aims of this policy analysis were to: a) support advocacy to address policy gaps in terms of engaging men; and b) provide recommendations towards engaging men more directly in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.
The results of this analysis were then used to shape Sonke’s policy advocacy work during the development of the 2012- 2016 NSP, which was channelled through the South African National AIDS Council Men’s Sector. The National Strategic Plan for HIV, STIs and TB (2012-2016) was then analysed in order to identify if any progress had been made since the 2007-2011 NSP. It was found that while the increased focus on engaging men within the current NSP is encouraging, there are areas that could still be further strengthened.