31 March 2007

Kenya: Luo Elders Reject Male Circumcision

Nairobi — The Luo Council of Elders (LCE) has said no to forced circumcision as one of the ways of containing the spread of HIV/Aids.

LCE Chairman, Mr Riaga Ogalo, and deputy secretary, Mr Adera Osawa, said they would not allow the erosion of their culture on the basis of controversial studies.

"We cannot force our male members to undergo the cut, which has not been a part of our culture, to please scientists," Ogalo said.

The World Health Organisation on Wednesday announced that circumcision be part of HIV prevention package.

Trials carried out in Kenya showed that male circumcision reduces likelihood of contracting HIV by about 60 per cent. Similar results were found in Uganda and South Africa.

"Let them preach behavioural change, which we started as elders in 1999, than releasing findings of controversial studies," Osawa said. About 30 million people in Africa are believed to be HIV positive and more than 90 per cent of HIV infections in African adults result from unprotected sex.

The elders however, said men may undergo the cut but on their own volition. "We have not disowned members of the Nomiya Luo Church from the community because they have undergone the cut," observed Ogalo.

Nyanza has the highest number of reported HIV/Aids cases and a prevalence rate of 14 per cent with more females affected than males.

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