‘We want to sell circumcision like tattoos ...’

2010-12-07 10:58

Before he was circumcised, ­Thulani Shilembe (25) first had to ward off peer pressure and gender issues.

Shilembe was among the first group of young men to undergo medical circumcision this week when the Mpumalanga provincial health ­department launched the new medical male ­circumcision programme.

Some of his friends pulled out of the 30-member group from ­Harmony Park which was scheduled to be circumcised at the Piet Retief ­provincial hospital.

“They said the timing was bad because December is a festive month and things are happening.

“So having to abstain from sexual intercourse for six weeks and not drinking or smoking was a ­deterrent to them,” said Shilembe.

But his motivation was simple – he has lost four of his friends to Aids-related diseases.

“It wasn’t easy, but I told myself I had to do this. Now my chances of being infected have been reduced. I will also always use a condom,” Shilembe said.

Mpumalanga is positioned second after KwaZulu-Natal as the province with the most number of people living with HIV/Aids.

Among its 3.6-million population, about 35% live with HIV/Aids. In the whole of South Africa, 5.4 million, or 10.5% of the population of 49 million, are infected.

Circumcision as a counter to HIV infection is gaining momentum across the country.

The Gauteng health department and the Perinatal HIV Research Unit have opened a free-of-charge circumcision clinic, named Khula Ndoda, at the Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto.

KwaZulu-Natal has put a similar programme in place.

Clinical trials conducted in ­Orange Farm, south of Johannesburg, found that circumcision reduces the chance of infection in men by 60%.

Mpumalanga health spokesperson Mpho Gabashane said three more hospitals – Tonga (Malelane), Mapulaneng (Bushbuckridge) and Themba ­(KaBokweni) – were ready to roll out the programme and had the capacity to circumcise 20 men a day.

He said 203 men were circumcised in two days in Piet ­Retief. KwaZulu-Natal has circumcised 17?000 men since April, and its target is 2.5 million by 2015.

Khula Ndoda clinic director Dr Limakatso Lebina said: “We are targeting young men and adolescents. We want to sell circumcision, like you would tattoos or ear ­piercing.”  

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