Unaddressed men in the HIV epidemic

Homosexual men were the majority group diagnosed with AIDS a couple decades ago when the disease was first identified. This sexually transmitted disease was passed onto women over time and the latest statistics show that women account for 51% of the HIV epidemic in the US according to the CDC. For a predominantly male disease, there is clearly some reason why the number of infected women has increased exponentially in the past 3 decades.

Higgins suggests a model that women are more susceptible to HIV because of “biological differences in susceptibility, reduced sexual autonomy, and men’s sexual power and privilege”. I completely agree with these reasons, but disagree when she went further to suggest the model believes that men just don’t participate in prevention. It was at this point that I was a little skeptical of what I had gotten myself into reading, however Higgins explains the flaws in this model. She makes it clear that men aren’t the only ones responsible, there had to be some way heterosexual men contracted HIV.

Yet this got me thinking. Why would someone suggest that men aren’t interested in prevention? Although transmission rates are significantly lower in men that doesn’t mean men will never get HIV. This is something that affects your life, and I can’t imagine a reason why knowledgeable men would actively not be interested in prevention.

Reading in one of my other classes that HPV vaccines are available for women as well as men changed my perspective on men not taking responsibility. It allowed me to parallel between men and HPV and men and HIV- although I understand that HPV can be actively prevented while HIV cannot.  I felt a little ignorant realizing that men can be a huge factor in prevention and it caused me to look at the HIV/AIDS epidemic a little differently. Higgins article hinted that men don’t take any responsibility, and I initially had trouble understanding that for HIV, but a disease like HPV makes me understand.

It is obvious that men can prevent certain strains of HPV from being transmitted through vaccine, yet I feel that the public has not been made aware. Similarly, I think this situation arises with HIV as well. HPV has a minimal effect on men, and I think some people may think that HIV has a minimal effect on men (when you consider the higher rate of transmission women have). I think men can alter the current transmission rates of HIV through condom use, abstinence, or monogamous relationships but the first step is to make sure you target both sexes through education. You can’t eradicate a disease by just focusing on one sex.


2 thoughts on “Unaddressed men in the HIV epidemic

  1. Sumo: I am assuming that the “men” you are talking about in this post are heterosexual men? You didn’t state that, but I think that is what you mean. I understood Higgins and her co-authors to be saying that heterosexual men were not being targeted in prevention. It wasn’t that straight men don’t care about preventing HIV and/or that they don’t try to prevent it in a variety of ways but instead that most campaigns only focus on the women and responsible for prevention and she (and her co-authors) see this as a misstep. Again, to use LB’s idea of creating a “community of caring” or “ethic of caring” around sexual violence prevention, so to must we create such a community around HIV/AIDS prevention. Nice job.

    • I should have clarified that I did mean to focus the article on heterosexual men. Also, I agree with you and your understanding of the article. I think I initially misinterpreted, but do believe Higgin’s was emphasizing that men aren’t targeted as heavily as women for prevention, not that they don’t care.

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