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"I am the man": meanings of masculinity within voluntary medical adult male circumcision during times of HIV in South Africa

Lynlee Howard-Payne, University of the Witwatersrand
Brett Bowman, University of the Witwatersrand

Voluntary Medical Adult Male Circumcision (VMAMC) has been selectively rolled out in South Africa as part of a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy. VMAMC potentially collides traditional positions of masculinity with medical meanings of masculinity and HIV prevention, thus this paper explores these meanings within the context of VMAMC. Semi-structured repeat interviews conducted with adult men from Johannesburg were analysed using a Straussian grounded theory approach. Two primary mechanisms revealed that the meaning of masculinity within the context of VMAMC is made (1) by adopting an active role in the fight against HIV in South Africa, and (2) as a function that maintains and prioritises tradition. This suggests that the removal of the foreskin extends far beyond the biomedical understandings of the body even when medicine (in the form of HIV prevention) frames the discussion of masculinity, which has potential implications for a national VMAMC HIV prevention programme in South Africa.

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Presented in Session 114: Masculinity, Population, Health and Development