One of APTPG’s (AIDS Prevention and Treatment Program of Ghana) primary goals is educating youth and adults about HIV/AIDS prevention, and because of the social context of Ghana and the organization’s scope and resources, the majority of this is focused on boys and men; one “key population” that the group serves is MSM, or men who have sex with men. From what I have observed over the past week, I believe that many of the educational materials the group creates and uses are as a result carefully targeted and framed at this audience. First, there is significant focus on a man’s accountability to others, through the use of words like “reliance” and “responsibility.” This often accompanies a reminder that adult men may have dependents, usually assumed to be women and children who are presented as more inherently vulnerable than the men themselves.
Second, it is common to invoke traditionally masculine qualities when promoting STI testing or preventative practices, as illustrated by the frequent use of terms such as “strength,” “boldness,” and “bravery” in pamphlets and posters. In some cases, this includes the use of examples or metaphors associated with traditionally masculine activities, such as sports; for example, the poster shown to the right makes use of football terminology, possibly in an attempt to appeal to what is likely a majority-male audience.
These strategies are unlikely to be a coincidence, particularly when we consider that non-heterosexual identities and sex acts are viewed in many parts of the world as emasculating or, in some cases, even as direct contradictions to manhood. The rhetoric employed by APTPG and its partner groups seems to be a deliberate attempt to counter those narratives; such an approach not only serves their programming purposes around HIV/AIDS and STI testing and prevention, but also encourages a healthier culture around masculinity that could potentially decrease the demand for such services in the future.