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By unknown | May 16, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Namhla Tshisela and Mfundekelwa Mkhulisi

Namhla Tshisela and Mfundekelwa Mkhulisi

The Young Communist League (YCL) has called for circumcision to be made compulsory for all South African men.

The Limpopo and Gauteng Young Communists say this "is to help reduce the spread of HIV-Aids".

But medical experts, associations, activists and cultural groups warned yesterday that circumcision alone was not the answer to preventing HIV infections.

One leading medical doctor warned that such utterances could mislead people and that circumcision alone was not enough to curb the spread of the virus.

This, the YCL said, was based on research that indicated that circumcised men were less likely to transmit the deadly virus.

But Pat Makate, the acting Limpopo secretary of the YCL, who made the initial call, has not been able to reveal whether he is circumcised himself. When contacted, he said his cellphone was running out of battery time and switched it off.

Chairman of the South African Medical Association Kgosi Letlape said the YCL was "jumping the gun" as the "jury was still out" on the role of male circumcision in the transmission of the HI virus.

He said it would be more effective for the league to encourage men to test for HIV and stay in monogamous relationships.

Regis Mtutu, international campaigns co-ordinator for the Treatment Action Campaign, encouraged voluntary male circumcision under "proper medical conditions" and the continued use of condoms. Mtutu said the foreskin provided a place for micro-organisms to incubate.

"This is what makes men who have unprotected sex susceptible to infection, but this is not to say that men should do away with condoms.

"Any approach that protects them, coupled with massive public education, is better to prevent HIV infections," said Mtutu.

Reggie Khumalo, an expert on Zulu culture and a member of the Zulu Language Board, said the ritual was specific to certain cultural groups and should not be imposed on everyone.

He said substance and alcohol abuse contributed to the escalating Aids epidemic.

"Drugs and alcohol make people careless and they sleep around without protecting themselves. These are the issues that people in government and political organisations should fight to stop," said Khumalo.

YCL spokesman Castro Ngobese said the call for compulsory circumcision should not be "tribalised" or taken out of context.

Advocate Sonwabile Mancotywa, chief executive of the National Heritage Council, said: "The YCL did not apply their minds when making that call. Circumcision is a sacred ritual and people who practise it would view the call as demeaning to their culture. We need to recognise cultural diversity and be sensitive when dealing with cultural practices."


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