Exploring young men's perceptions of care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs) in South Africa, is primarily provided by women in the local community, with young men largely absent. Understanding young men’s perceptions and understandings of care and support for PLWHAs, and what role they feel they play has been under-researched and inadequately conceptualised. This study explores the meanings that young men associate with care and support for PLWHAs in their communities. Data was collected from a semi-structured focus group of six young men, and later 3 semi-structured interviews with three of the young men from the focus group, from a peri-urban area in KwaZulu Natal. The data was analysed using Interpretive Practice, drawing on social capital theory, and the theory of planned behaviour. Findings indicate that the meanings these young men associate with care and support for PLWHAs are complex, contradictory and influenced by multiple discourses, expectations, and aspirations. Care and support for PLWHAs represents a set of roles and tasks which young men simultaneously feel expected to perform, as well as ridiculed for performing, by both men and women. It requires careful negotiation into roles which are acceptable by hegemonic masculinity, and do not intrude on women’s social space as caregivers. Alternate roles are fulfilling for young men, such as economic provider, joker, loyal friend, and protector, particularly because it provides a means to construct and sustain masculine respect and identity. Importantly, not all young men associate the same meanings to care and support for PLWHAs, nor construct and sustain their masculine identities the same way. Interventions seeking to encourage young men to engage in care and support for PLWHAs need to understand masculinity, femininity and the implications of the roles prescribed in their intervention. Individual interpretations and embodiment by each young man should also be facilitated if the messages are to be accepted and change behaviour effectively.