World AIDS Day 2011

Young men in blue.

Another day, another training in gender roles for these factory workers. Photo: China Family Planning Association.

Imagine you’re at work when your manager approaches. Some of the guys are getting together later, he says. But they’re not going to share a friendly beer or watch a big game. They’re going to talk. About gender roles.

Would you go?

In Chongqing, China, more than 1,500 young men did. Factory workers no older than their early 20s, they met with PATH-trained facilitators either at work or at a nearby café to discuss such topics as gender and power, sexuality, violence, fatherhood, healthy relationships—and HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

Fewer infections, fewer deaths

The Breaking Gender Barriers project, which reached a total of about 6,000 young men either at school or in factories, is one of a dozen of our projects that focus on reducing HIV infections and AIDS deaths. In recognition of World AIDS Day, we’re highlighting a number of them.

You’ll see that PATH uses a variety of approaches to address the challenges of HIV/AIDS. We work on new technologies, such diagnostic tools to identify HIV and new products that could protect against the virus before it’s transmitted. We’re helping South African midwives learn about HIV and AIDS prevention and care, and we’re working in Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe to help people who have both HIV and tuberculosis. We’re also giving people the information they need to make educated decisions about their health.

Equity between men and women

The Breaking Gender Barriers project used a communications campaign and education sessions to challenge behavior that can affect health and to promote equity between men and women. The campaign’s messages showed up on billboards, posters, leaflets, and displays throughout the participating schools and factories. Participants sported T-shirts, towels, reusable bags, and umbrellas printed with messages promoting gender equity—and many of the messages began to sink in.

Our team surveyed participants before and after the project and found that both students and workers changed their attitudes. For example, the proportion who disagreed with the statement that “women who dress sexy” are “asking to be harassed” increased from 69 to 88 percent among students and from 32 to 60 percent among workers. The number who said they verbally or physically abused their partners decreased from 11 to 3 percent among students and from 25 to 11 percent among workers. Changes in the men’s attitudes may help contribute to better health by reducing gender-based violence and sexually transmitted infections.

Global health quiz

On Tuesday, we asked you to name three regions in which PATH is working to fight HIV and AIDS. That was a bit of a trick question since our work in HIV/AIDS has global reach, but if you said some combination of Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America, pat yourself on the back.

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