Perception of Masculinity May Influence HIV-Related Stigma

Participants whose diagnoses were preceded by their own sickness were more likely to report isolation, stigma and feelings of being less than a man.

Men who had prolonged illness before testing positive for HIV were more likely to feel that they were isolated because of their illness, according to a study published in BMC Public Health this month. 

A team led by Titilayo Okoror, associate professor of Africana studies at Binghamton University and colleagues, conducted interviews with four questions that focused on 17 heterosexual HIV-positive men in Nigeria. All of the study participants were all receiving medication for their illness. 

The researchers noted that while those men who had family members that were diagnosed with HIV were less likely to report feeling isolated, men who were ill for a long time before their diagnosis, and thus may have been more likely to be physically weaker and staying home for prolonged periods before diagnosis, reported feeling more stigmatized. 

“What the data showed is that when they have met the responsibility of what it means to be culturally defined as a man, they tend to report less experience of stigma,” Ms Okoror said in a prepared statement about the findings. She said the prevailing ideal of what it means to be a man is that “a real man is supposed to be strong,” and if they were sick for a long time before diagnosis, they were more likely to feel stigmatized.

The researchers emphasized the need for earlier testing in Nigeria and elsewhere.  


1. Ainegbesua Okoror T, Olufunke Falade C, Mary Walker E, et al. Social context surrounding HIV diagnosis and construction of masculinity: a qualitative study of stigma experiences of heterosexual HIV positive men in southwest Nigeria. BMC Public Health, 2016; 16(1) DOI: 10.1186/s12889-016-3165-z.

2. Binghamton University.  HIV stigma influenced by perceptions of masculinity, study reveals. Press release. 2016.