THANDANANI Children’s Foundation has teamed up with Jhpiego, an international non-profit health organisation, to encourage more young men between the ages of 15 and 34 to undergo voluntary medical male circumcision.Known to reduce the risk of HIV by 60%, male circumcision is seen as a key component in any HIV prevention strategy. Thandanani director Duncan Andrew said facilitating male circumcision in a number of areas in Umgeni and Msunduzi was viewed as an “extension” of the existing work of the organisation. “Thandanani’s work is aimed at supporting orphaned and vulnerable children but, if we can keep parents alive, we reduce the number of orphaned and vulnerable children that need our support. “Health issues, such as HIV and TB, are among the leading causes of death in the communities in which we work. So, because circumcision helps reduce the risk of transmission, it has become a natural extension of our work.” said Andrew.The organisation has trained mobilisers – local residents who work in their community – to provide information on circumcision and arrange appointments for those who want to get circumcised. “While the risks of infection are minimal if proper procedures are followed, people still need to know about it” said local mobiliser Phindile Gcabashe. Gcabashe and co-worker Ayanda Xaba, who work in the Mpumuza area, want to speak not just to the men but to their partners as well. “It’s a family matter,” said Gcabashe. “In addition to the benefits for men – reduced risk of infection including HIV and other STIs and improved hygiene – we explain the potential health benefits to the women too, which include reduced risk of cervical cancer.”Project coordinator Khanyile “KD” Dali said progress has been slower than expected but that the number of boys and men getting circumcised is increasing. His experience was that younger men were more open to the idea than older men. Twenty-eight-year-old Meluleki Chamu, who was circumcised at Mpumuza clinic recently, said most men resist the procedure because they fear the pain and are advised to refrain from sexual intercourse for six weeks after the operation.In encouraging men, he said “the operation was 100% better than I thought it would be. The procedure, which took place under local anaesthetic, only took 20 minutes and I was able to walk home afterwards on my own. Since then, I have not experienced any difficulties caring for the wound. I have no regrets. It’s the best decision I’ve made recently,” he said.Chamu, who is the father of a four-year-old girl child and, at the time of this interview, was expecting a second boy child, said it felt good to be in a position to advise other men to undergo the procedure based on his own positive experience. “It’s really about proper education,” he said. “My son will have the procedure when he’s born – definitely.”And what does his partner think? “I haven’t told her yet,” he said. “It will be a surprise for her!”Community members wanting to get circumcised should approach a Thandanani fieldworker in their community or visit their local clinic for more information or to schedule an appointment.— Supplied.