20 November 2015

Zimbabwe: Men in Rural Zimbabwe Embrace Circumcision

When 33-year-old Zimbabwean Michael Mheredzi heard about a fun day coming to his town, where he could also have the opportunity to be circumcised, he was intrigued.

'Mr Smart Fun Day' is a new initiative spearheaded by the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Population Services International and National Aids Council, which took place for the first time in Chachacha village, Shurugwi district on 15 October 2015. The day involved games and entertainment, as well as 43 men taking the opportunity to be circumcised.

"I heard about circumcision some time ago through campaigns and advertisements and I got an interest in it," Mheredzi said.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) male circumcision is proven to offer partial protection against sexually acquired female-to-male transmission of HIV.

Mheredzi said: "I also learnt that through male circumcision it will improve my partner's chances of avoiding cervical cancer."

PrePex circumcision method

While waiting to get into the counselling room, Michael added that he was not afraid of the procedure.

"I have decided to be circumcised using the PrePex method, as I heard it's not painful. A six-week healing period is required, but I have support from my wife so that will not be a problem," added Michael.

PrePex is a non-surgical circumcision device which uses rubber bands. A plastic ring is inserted inside the foreskin and a rubber ring is placed on the outer foreskin, on top of the inner ring.

The outer ring clamps on the inner ring stopping the flow of blood. The foreskin then dries up and can be removed after a week.

Benefits of circumcision

Victor Musifare, 19, is another man who opted for the PrePex method. After coming out from the circumcision room, he said the many benefits motivated him to have the procedure.

"At first I thought it was just prevention from HIV, but I later learnt that it also reduces chances from other STIs," he said. "I don't feel any pain, from here I am going straight to join the soccer match."

Despite the benefits of being circumcised, Musifare said he plans to first pursue his studies and will postpone engaging in sexual activity until he is older.

"Circumcision does not necessarily mean that one will not get HIV, because it will only prevent chances of getting infected by 60 per cent, so for the meantime I will abstain," he said.

Many benefits to VMMC

Patience Kunaka, voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) programme officer in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, said apart from reducing the chances of men acquiring HIV by 60 per cent there are more benefits accompanying the procedure.

"VMMC provides an opportunity for men to access information regarding their sexual and reproductive health while still healthy. This can prevent diseases and ensure they can continue to provide for the family.

"It also assists in reducing risk of cervical cancer in female partners, and helps prevent other STIs, including gonorrhoea and urinary tract infections in young boys," said Kunaka.

She added that VMMC provides an opportunity to get tested for HIV, and improves access to information on how to stay negative, or if positive will help with getting an early referral for care and treatment.

"Another benefit that one gets is the reduction of risk of penile cancer," added Kunaka.

Zim targets to circumcise 1.3 million by 2017

Brian Nachipo advocacy officer for the Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) in the Ministry of Health and Child Care said Zimbabwe has a target of circumcising 1.3 million men by 2017. In 2015, they plan to reach 266,580 men.

Shurugwi district's medical officer Marvin Nyamana said the response to VMMC in his area was quite overwhelming.

"We have been given a target to circumcise 450 men per month and per week we are getting 150 to 200. Young adolescents constitute the greater proportion of people being circumcised and most are opting for the PrePex method," he said.

VMMC part of HIV prevention package

Although male circumcision has many benefits, with regards to protection from HIV, the World Health Organization recommends it always be considered as part of a comprehensive HIV prevention package of services and be used in conjunction with other methods of prevention, such as female and male condoms.

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