HeForShe Campaign: Men Speaking Up for Women’s Rights
UN Women recently launched the HeForShe campaign, urging men to speak out against gender inequality. The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) supports several programs that encourage men to play an active role in HIV prevention. Learn more below!
HIV continues to be a disease that disproportionately affects women. In fact, according to UNAIDS, women account for approximately 57 percent of people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. It is also a reality that a lack of male involvement and understanding in the treatment process are serious obstacles to effective HIV prevention and elimination.
The crucial role men play in treatment outcomes cannot be understated. Studies show that male involvement in prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) efforts and other family planning activities can reduce transmission and infant mortality rates by more than 40 percent. Getting men involved has also been linked to increases in the number of people getting tested for HIV, taking antiretroviral medication, using condoms, and an increase in support for infant feeding choices.
Still, societal and gender norms remain powerful barriers to effectively recruiting men as allies and participants in elimination efforts. These barriers also prevent HIV-positive men from finding treatment, education, and acceptance.
Godian, an HIV counselor working in Tanzania, formed the first HIV counseling group just for men in his community.
“Being open about my HIV status has helped me a great deal,” he said. “Since taking treatment through EGPAF, I have worked with other HIV-positive men, encouraging them to accept and be vocal about their HIV status. I have seen too many men die because of denial and stigma.”
It is through counseling groups such as Godian’s, as well as through initiatives and programs that promote male involvement, such as exclusively-male clinics in Western Kenya and workshops led by male community leaders in Uganda, that this stigma can be diminished and denial turned to acceptance.
The HeForShe campaign recognizes the necessity of male voices in the dialogue about gender equality, and that a man’s silence can have devastating consequences for a woman. Nowhere is this more evident than in the global effort to end HIV, where success depends on men breaking their silence and standing proudly side by side with women as husbands, partners, and equals.
Ryan Henson is EGPAF’s Communications Assistant, based in Washington, D.C.