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Zimbabwe Men Ignore National Circumcision Drive

A patient suffering from HIV is taken to a local hospital in Harare, January 31, 2012.

A patient suffering from HIV is taken to a local hospital in Harare, January 31, 2012.

The Ministry of Health and its partners in the HIV/AIDS sector in Zimbabwe are worried about the low uptake of the male circumcision program which was introduced as a form of HIV prevention method sometime last year.

The National Cordinator of the HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis Response in the Health and Child Welfare Ministry, Dr. Owen Mugurungi, says government is unhappy with the uptake of the male circumcision program in the country.

Dr. Mugurungi says government and other partners in the HIV/AIDS response had anticipated the program would be a huge success.

The country director of the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe (UNAIDS) Ms. Tatiana Shomiliana says her organisation is also concerned about the low uptake.

Ms. Shomiliana says a lot of resources were mobilised in anticipation of the uptake of a large number of men following the circumcision of lawmakers at the beginning of the campaign.

She says feedback from stakeholders seems to suggest that the programme is not being taken seriously because of poor messaging on the promotion of male circumcision, a situation she says is very worrying.

Ms. Shomiliana says other research suggests that old men are less receptive to circumcision compared to young men or boys.

Dr. Mugurungi says the benefits of reducing one’s chances of HIV infection and risk of cervical cancer through circumcision should encourage men to take up the service.

Interviews with a number of men reveal much more needs to be done by the government and its partners if they are to successfully sell the circumcision program to ordinary and suspicious Zimbabweans.

One man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, views the program with suspicion. He thinks African men are being used as guinea pigs in some form of research.

Wellington Mberi says he will not get circumcised for the same reasons that the programme is being promoted for, adding it may just give him a false sense of security, leading him to indulge in dangerous sexual exploits.

But it is not every man who has negative perceptions about the practice. Moses Mutema was circumcised. He encourages friends and colleagues to go for circumcision.

Government plans to circumcise about 3 million people by the end of 2015 in its bid to reduce HIV infections in the country. But at the pace at which the programme is being implemented, it looks unlikely that that target would be reached.

The World Health Organisation is encouraging male circumcision saying research shows it can help prevent HIV infection in men by about
60 percent.