Science aims to help tradition during initiation season

The Mpumalanga government has negotiated for the use of the skills of medical practitioners to help out at initiation schools./Simphiwe Nkwali
The Mpumalanga government has negotiated for the use of the skills of medical practitioners to help out at initiation schools./Simphiwe Nkwali

The Mpumalanga government is splitting the number of targeted initiates in half to minimise deaths.

At least one initiate has died since the beginning of the initiation season in the province.

The department of health said it aims to have more than 60,000 men circumcised to curb the spread of HIV.

"We are targeting a total of 66,853 men to undergo the cut this year. Initiation schools have enrolled their initiates and some are undergoing medical male circumcision.

"We expect 50% initiates from both medical and traditional circumcision," said health spokesperson Dumisani Malamule.

The World Health Organisation said there is evidence that male circumcision reduces the risk of HIV infection in men by approximately 60%.

Mpumalanga had over 30 deaths in 2013 from traditional male circumcision known as ingoma. The deaths prompted the departments of health and cooperative governance and traditional affairs to establish a forum, comprising medical doctors and traditional leaders.

Malamule said though some preferred traditional circumcision, the department sends doctors to initiation schools to ensure that there are no complications.

He said in the past 10 years, about 414,944 young men have been circumcised through medical male circumcision and the department was looking to increase the numbers.

Traditional affairs MEC Mandla Msibi said after 11 deaths last year, they were saddened by the death of an initiate at Verena in the Thembisile Hani local municipality.

"One death is one too many. This is our culture which we cherish and love, so we are trying by all means to keep the boys alive in the bushes.

"Working with the department of health and doctors to check each initiate enrolling, that is possible," Msibi said.

Verena is where some of the 30 deaths in 2013 happened.

"People who perform ingoma only have a cultural skill .with the addition of health professionals, we are going to have a culture that is using a modern style [to circumcise]," Msibi.

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