The Clever Dick campaign kicks off in the Cape

Two mobile surgical theatres to take to the road

A campaign to promote medical male circumcision has been stepped up in the Western Cape with the launch of two mobile surgical theatres.

Circumcision, which can be done in 30 minutes, protects men against HIV, as well as sexually transmitted infections.

The mobile surgical theatres, about the size of an average bread truck, will travel through the Winelands, Overberg and Eden areas in the Western Cape, stopping off at towns, villages and communities along the way.

They were launched by the SACTWU Worker Health Program (SWHP) at a community soccer event at Stellenbosch at the end of August 2014.

Research trials in South Africa, Kenya and Uganda have shown that MMC reduces the risk of contracting HIV by 60%. The government has set a target of medically circumcising 4.3 million men in South Africa by 2016.

Read: Why South Africans need to be educated about Medical Male Circumcision

Image: Professional nurse, Poli Lubabalo, HIV lay counsellor, Steven Windvogel and professional nurse, Bantu Mfana.  (Photographs by Kim Cloete)

clever dick men

Circumcision helps against HIV

Life-saving procedure

“It’s an ambitious goal, but we want to ensure we achieve it. By getting circumcised, as well as using condoms and taking care of your health, HIV could be reduced remarkably,” said Dayanund Loykissoonlal, Programme Manager for MMC in the National Department of Health.

Over 1.3 million men have been circumcised in South Africa since the government launched its MMC campaign in 2010.

MMC is potentially a life-saving procedure for thousands of South Africans by reducing the risk of HIV transmission between heterosexuals.

Read: Circumcision vs. Aids?

“We’re finding very few men are asking for MMC at clinics. We need to think out of the box – so we’ll be launching radio adverts and putting branding on taxis and spaza shops to encourage men to get medically circumcised through our 'Get Wise, Circumcise’ campaign,” said Nikki Soboil, CEO of SWHP.

A cartoon character, "Clever Dick" is the campaign’s ambassador.

Feeling good

At the launch, men and women gathered at the sports ground in Stellenbosch to play five-a-side soccer. Men also popped in to the mobile surgical theatres to be circumcised.

“I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time because I want to lower my risk of getting HIV and Sexually Transmitted Diseases. It was easy to do and I feel good about it. I’ve done it for my own health, as well as to protect my girlfriend,” said a young man resting after his circumcision.

James Kruger, deputy director of HIV/Aids, TB and STIs for the Western Cape Department of Health’s Cape Winelands office, said the campaign and its use of "Clever Dick" was a creative way of getting men to talk about health issues.

WHP has also partnered with the Desmond Tutu TB Centre (DTTC) at Stellenbosch University in helping to roll out MMC at nine clinics in the Winelands and in and around Cape Town.

1 000 infections per day

“DTTC is excited to be associated with SWHP’s MMC programme and the Department of Health in the scale up of MMC which plays an important role in HIV prevention along with other interventions including safe sexual practices, condoms, treatment of sexually transmitted infections and antiretroviral treatment.” said Peter Bock of the DTTC and principal investigator of the HPTN 071 (PopART) trial.

Read: UN backs circumcision for HIV

The PopART HIV prevention trial led by the DTTC in South Africa includes MMC as one of its key interventions.  Men will be able to go to any of the nine clinics where the PopART study is being conducted in the Western Cape to get circumcised by SWHP and department of health staff.

Loykissoonlal said there was still a great need to reduce the number of HIV infections in South Africa.

Over six million people in South Africa are currently infected with the virus, with 1 000 HIV infections reported on a daily basis.

Read more:

Circumcision cuts STI risk
Circumcised sex no different
Mass circumcision for SA?

Prepared for the Desmond Tutu TB centre, department of paediatrics and child health, Stellenbosch University by Kim Cloete – or 082 4150736.

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