Over 200 circumcised in bid to fight HIV-Aids

More than 200 men and boys had themselves circumcised in the first government-supported circumcision camp at Eshowe, northern KwaZulu-Natal, at the weekend

The provincial department of health and several non-governmental organisations - the Reproductive Health Research Unit, Mother Adolescent and Child Health and John Hopkins University supported by the United States Government's Presidential Emergency Plan for Aids Relief - held the first male circumcision camp at Eshowe's FET College.

Young men between the ages of 14 and 25 years were circumcised. The circumcision camp follows the government's announcement that it will scale up medical male circumcision as part of the comprehensive HIV prevention strategy.

The plan is aimed at circumcising 2million men in the next five years. Women are also encouraged to have their newborn babies circumcised immediately after birth.

Many initiates at traditional circumcision schools lost their lives either because of the unhygienic instruments used or due to uncontrolled bleeding.

One of the 202 initiates, Sandile Mchunu, 14, said the camp had been very exciting and it gave him peace of mind knowing that the procedure was done by professional doctors and nurses.

"It was not a cut-and-go process," he said. "A lot of counseling and education was involved. We were taught about the importance of using a condom and not to think that now that we have been circumcised, we are safe from contracting HIV-Aids."

The camp is part of the campaign to scale up male circumcision in the province announced by King Goodwill Zwelithini. The campaign was officially launched at Nongoma in April this year.

The camp started on Friday and all participants underwent HIV counselling and testing and primary healthcare screening for deceases including high blood pressure and diabetes.

On the second day of the camp participants were checked for complications such as bleeding and swelling.

The circumcisions were done in clean and user friendly cubicles. In between the sessions initiates were give time to watch World Cup matches.

Provincial department of health spokesperson Chris Maxon said they were very excited that everything went well at the camp.

The last day was punctuated by medical check-ups for potential adverse effects and psychosocial counselling of all initiates. Initiates were also counselled on the need to observe six weeks abstinence to allow healing.

"We are hoping to have circumcised men and boys in 11 districts by the end of this year," Maxon said.

"Already 1000 have been circumcised in the province through this campaign. I also urged others to go to their nearest hospitals."

He said the initiates were recruited through amakhosi and local clinics and on returning home yesterday, (Sunday) they would undergo the cultural practices and celebrations associated with circumcision.

Dr Sandile Buthelezi of the Department of Health's strategic health programmes yesterday said the initiates were counselled on many aspects such as family values, gender-based violence including rape, the roles and responsibilities of men in the family and society, respect and caring for one another.