Male sexuality in Africa is often associated with harmful sexual practices, which, in the
context of HIV and AIDS, often positions men as central to the spread of the epidemic.
Despite this focus on men’s practices, there is a lack of research exploring the subject
positions of men living with HIV. This study explores how masculinity is constructed
by a group of black South African men who self-identify as heterosexual and are living
with HIV. Using discourse analysis, a construction of a normative masculinity is
identified as being both idealised and perceived as a burden, in that men continually
need to engage in actions that affirm their position as ‘real’ men. By depicting men as
invulnerable and unemotional, this construction limits men from acknowledging health
risks or accessing support. A second discourse constructs HIV and AIDS as disrupting
normative masculinity, in that it restricts men’s agency through illness and the need for
care. A final discourse relates to a transformed masculinity, where men living with HIV
reconstruct their masculinity, as conforming to normative constructions of male
identity is perceived as restrictive and harmful.