Though research has documented experiences of stigma and its effects on the lives of women living with HIV/AIDS, there is limited research on heterosexual positive HIV men experience of stigma in Nigeria. This study explored how social context surrounding HIV diagnosis impacts stigma experiences of heterosexual HIV positive men and their construction of masculinity in southwest Nigeria.
Using purposive sampling, 17 heterosexual HIV positive men were recruited through community based organization to participate in two hours focus group discussions or 45 min in-depth interviews that were audio-recorded. Without using the word stigma, discussions and interviews were guided by four questions that explored participants’ experiences of living with HIV/AIDS. Interviews and discussions were conducted in three languages: English, Yoruba and Pidgin English. Thematic data analysis approach was in coding transcribed data, while social constructivist thinking guided data analysis.
Participants ranged in age from 30 to 57 years old, and all were receiving antiretroviral therapy. Findings indicated that participants’ experiences of stigma might be moderated by the social context surrounding their HIV diagnosis, and whether they have met the socio-cultural construction of masculinity. Participants whose diagnosis were preceded by immediate family members’ diagnosis were less likely to report experiencing HIV stigma and more likely to report “not feeling less than a man” and educating others about HIV/AIDS. Contrarily, participants whose diagnosis was preceded by their own sickness were more likely to report isolation, sigma and feeling of being less than a man. All participants reported limiting their sexual intimacy, and those with children reported adjusting how they performed their role as fathers.
Social context surrounding HIV diagnosis impact how heterosexual HIV positive men experience HIV related stigma and how they perceive themselves as men, which may influence their care seeking behaviors. These findings have implications for HIV programs geared towards African heterosexual men in general and HIV positive men in particular.