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The traditional leaders said the work done by the department to circumcise men in a drive to curb the spread of Aids and discourage bush circumcisions was encouraging and brought dignity to the Zulu tradition of circumcision (ukusoka).
The turnout at the circumcision camp held at Umbumbulu FET College on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast at the weekend was mostly young men aged between 12 and 21 years.
The young men heeded the call to be circumcised to curb the spread of HIV and Aids.
Traditional leaders were at the camp to motivate those preparing for the procedure and to congratulate the initiates who had already undergone the process.
Addressing the initiates, the amakhosi spoke about the social ills that contributed to teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, having sex with more than one partner. They heard about the dangers of alcohol as a contributor to spreading the pandemic.
The initiates were counselled and tested for diseases such as diabetes and for HIV before they were circumcised. They were also told about safe and responsible lifestyles, which included using condoms.
The provincial chairperson of the House of Traditional Leaders, Inkosi Bhekisisa Bhengu, said the initiates should be applauded for their brave decision.
He said circumcision was an old Zulu tradition that had been neglected for a while. He was happy that people had taken seriously the call by King Goodwill Zwelithini to have many men circumcised professionally by trained doctors.
Bhengu said children were also parents and thus the circumcision camp was a platform to speak to young men about acceptable ways of becoming responsible men in society.
The department says about 110000 male babies were born each year. In a population of 10 million people, 4,3 million were male, and the province hoped to circumcise them all.
In this fight, the national Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi has pledged to do no fewer than 1000 of the operations himself before July next year.
Asked to comment about what they had learnt at the camp and how it would change their lives as young men, most initiates said they would from now on take their sexual health seriously.
One of the initiates said he would come out of the camp a changed man. He would be well informed about diseases like HIV and Aids, and would encourage his older brothers at home to also go for circumcision.