Masculinity, Marriage, Childbearing and HIV Risk among Young Men in Rural Uganda

Sanyukta Mathur, Columbia University
Jenny A. Higgins, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Mariko Rasmussen, Columbia University
Laura Kelley, Clinton Health Access Initiative
Neema Nakyanjo, Rakai Health Sciences Program
Fred Nalugoda, Rakai Health Sciences Program

Both gendered power dynamics within sexual relationships and social expectancies about childbearing and marriage are widely understood to put women at risk of HIV. Social expectations about masculine roles, relationships, and fertility desires also shape HIV risk among young men. Using life-history interview data with 30 HIV-positive and HIV-negative young men aged 15-24, our analysis offers an in-depth perspective on young men’s transition through adolescence, fatherhood, and sexual partnerships in Rakai, Uganda. Young men consistently reported aspirations for formal marriages and children, yet in a context where masculinity is often defined by material provision, most were unable to realize their intentions due to financial barriers. Underemployment among young men often resulted in an extended life stage marked by casual and multiple partners and limited condom use. Our findings suggest that men, too, possess relationship and parenthood aspirations that may increase their HIV risk, particularly when combined with resource scarcity.

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Presented in Session 48: Rethinking Gender and Family in the Transition to Adulthood