Zimbabwe mixes medicine and tradition for safer circumcision

Posted by Share-Net Burundi on August 4, 2016 at 8:56 pm

Bhekisisa, 05 July 2016

Zimbabwe has successfully won the support of chiefs and their people by combining a respect for tradition with safe, modern procedures.

As the winter school holidays in Zimbabwe approach, excitement and nervous apprehension is building up among teenage boys. They are preparing for a traditional, yet very modern, experience and they’ll be emulating their favourite DJs and celebrities.

Their friends will think they are smart and mature; their headmasters, teachers and parents will be impressed — as will be, remarkably, the chiefs.

In an exceptional coming together of tradition deeply rooted in social customs on the one hand and modern medicine on the other, hundreds of boys will be circumcised. They will head to initiation camps in the bush. There the elders will teach them about traditional values, customs and practices. They will learn what it means to be a responsible man in society: taking good care of a family, protecting women and wives, and valuing traditions and culture.

The foreskins of the initiates will be removed — but it will not be done by traditional circumcisers. Doctors and nurses will perform the procedure surgically.

Integrating medical male circumcision and traditional initiation is complicated. In South Africa, where the initiation season is in full swing, there has been a varied response. In Pondoland in the Eastern Cape, for example, there has been strong resistance to surgical intervention.

But the Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) programme in Zimbabwe has been so successful that nearly 600 000 adolescent and adult men have been medically circumcised since it was started in 2009. This is about 50% of the national target to be reached by 2017.

More than two-thirds (70%) of the initiates are adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 years. Although the programme is targeting males between the ages of 13 to 29 years, boys seem to respond more favourably to campaigns using role models and peer influence.

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