Every year the potential benefits of being circumcised are overshadowed by reports of botched traditional circumcisions
MEDIA ADVISORY: The South African winter school holidays coincide with a surge in traditional circumcisions, as young men head to initiation schools throughout the country.
In the context of South Africa’s HIV epidemic, this should be good news - particularly as a number of promising studies have shown that circumcised men have a 60% reduced risk of acquiring HIV from their female partners.
But every year the potential benefits of being circumcised are overshadowed by reports of botched traditional circumcisions.
According to the Centre for HIV/AIDS Prevention Studies (CHAPS), a solution might be at hand.
“We’ve seen that in some communities medical male circumcision can be incorporated into the traditional initiation process to ensure safety and quality of circumcision procedures,”explains Dirk Taljaard, CEO of CHAPS.
CHAPS is an initiative run in partnership with the Anova Health Institutethat is dedicated to the safe and innovative implementation of medical male circumcision in South Africa.
Taljaard and his team have experienced the benefits of combining medical circumcision with traditional initiation first-hand when clinical managers from the Bophelo Pele Male Circumcision Centrecollaborated with a traditional initiation school in the Orange Farm community, last year.
“By working closely with the traditional leaders and respecting their needs, we were able to perform the circumcisions in a controlled medical environment,” says Taljaard.
“This meant that the traditional initiates experienced minimal complications and could proceed unhindered with the remainder of their initiation ritual,” he added.
CHAPS believe that this kind of cooperation can ensure that traditional initiates reap the full benefits of circumcision whilst keeping the risk of complications to a minimum and without tampering with the integrity of the initiation process at large.
But cooperation on this scale will require both traditional leaders and clinic staff to come to the party. Clinic management must be willing to accommodate initiation requirements - like only using all-male medical teams. It is also likely that the willingness of traditional leaders to incorporate medical circumcision will vary.
Nevertheless, the team feel that taking time to carefully and respectfully negotiate cooperation between initiation schools and the growing number of facilities that are equipped to provide free and safe medical male circumcision could be a winning strategy for responding to South Africa’s HIV epidemic while reducing adverse events related to circumcision.