Gender Integration Epiphanies – Insights From HIV Prevention Service Programs


“Gender stereotypes are already within us because they are learned. Being aware helped me catch what I was saying and realize when I was stating stereotypes”– HHS Office on Women’s Health, HIV Prevention Grantee.


For three years, JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. was the HIV gender integration capacity assistance provider for  Office on Women’s Health (OWH) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) grantees. JSI helped grantees that implement HIV prevention programs for women and girls.

JSI helped grantees implement program activities and strategies that addressed gender norms, gender roles, access to and control of resources and power, and decision making. Gender-related components that grantees incorporated included:

  • Addition of female anatomy and reproductive health in HIV basics
  • Small group activities regarding gender norms and how they affect decision making
  • Intimate partner violence screening questions on HIV testing forms


  1. Because OWH grantees were women serving women and adolescent girls, it was assumed that they understood the concept of gender and gender norms. Yet many grantees needed to learn how gender norms affect their own lives before they were able to guide program participants through the process.“Gender integration in HIV prevention programs can be challenging at first because some people may have to relearn what they think they know. You may think ‘I am a woman, I don’t need to know about gender. I know everything.’”
  2. Many OWH grantees came to recognize that the male partners of the women they served did not have opportunities to participate in HIV prevention programs unless they were men who also had sex with men. Grantees felt that men were an essential target audience for gender-responsive work and HIV prevention efforts, but did not have the funding to work with them.
  3. Some grantees said that simply discussing information about HIV, condom negotiation, and HIV testing was not enough to stop the epidemic. They needed to address social determinants of health and gender is a cross-cutting determinant that resonates with everyone regardless of socio-economic status, race, and ethnicity.“It is not just talking about HIV. You have to address domestic violence. You have to address economic dependency. We should think about our clients and their children. We have to connect HIV prevention to everyday reality.”

This grantee summarized it best: “Once we realized the importance of gender integration within our programs, we began the process of including gender in everything we did from prevention to outreach and one-on-one sessions…it changed us. It changed how women work with other women.”

Watch a video on JSI’s gender-responsive capacity building assistance.

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