Impact of Relationship Dynamics and Gender Roles in the Protection of HIV Discordant Heterosexual Couples: an Exploratory Study in the Puerto Rican Context

Rosaura Orengo-Aguayo, David Pérez-Jiménez


Background: Most of the HIV/AIDS prevention efforts have not taken into consideration the context of the relationship and the gender constructs that influence relationship dynamics. These efforts have failed to view HIV prevention as a collaborative process between partners. Therefore, it is important to explore how relationship dynamics and gender constructs influence how men and women involved in an HIV discordant heterosexual relationship, visualize their role in the protection of their partners in order to design more effective prevention interventions. Methods: Five Puerto Rican HIV discordant heterosexual couples were interviewed via a qualitative semi-structured interview. The taped interviews were transcribed and analyzed using content analysis according to a set of defined categories. Results: Women visualized their role as one of convincing their partners to use protection as well as being strong and firm in the demand of its use. Men viewed their role as one of being more supportive and willing to use protection, but recognized their resistance towards the use of condoms. Relationship dynamics such as communication and support promoted protection. Conclusions: Traditional and non-traditional gender roles were assumed by both men and women. Traditional gender roles inhibited protection but were also used in positive ways to promote it. Men showed a greater initiative to break with traditional gender norms. A positive relationship, marked by communication and support could serve as a facilitator in the protection and in the transformation of traditional gender norms. This points out to the need of viewing HIV/AIDS prevention as a collaborative rather than individualistic process.


HIV/AIDS; Gender roles; HIV discordant couples, Relationship dynamics; Heterosexual couples

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