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International News

Kenya: Modernizing Traditional Circumcision Rites

August 31, 2010

During years that end in an even number, the month of August sees thousands of young men in Kenya's Western Province undergo circumcision as an important rite of passage to manhood.

Dr. Nicholas Muraguri, head of the National AIDS/STD Control Program in Kenya, said this year one such community, the Bukusu, will circumcise around 20,000 boys ages 10-18 in traditional ceremonies. But without the assistance of trained staff or properly sterilized equipment, some 40 percent of the boys will experience complications, including severe bleeding, bacterial infections, gangrene, and mutilation of the penis.

Studies have shown that male circumcision, properly performed, can reduce the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission by up to 60 percent. However, Muraguri said some traditional circumcision practices, using one knife on several boys or encouraging sexual activity just following the procedure, can actually spread HIV and reverse the potential benefits.

Thus, Muraguri and his team are trying to find ways that allow young men to honor their culture without placing their lives at risk. "While we respect the cultural aspect of the procedure, we cannot guarantee the safety when done by the traditional circumcisers, and what we are promoting is health facility-based circumcision," he said.

The government is now offering male circumcision in the Western Province at a drastically reduced price, or for free in some instances. Typically, the procedure's cost in a medical facility ranges from US $6-12 -- a prohibitive amount for rural parents who are unemployed and make their living selling produce.

"We have reduced the amount to 200 Kenyan shillings [US $2.50] in Bungoma and Kakamega districts during this circumcision period. For those living in far-flung areas away from medical facilities, we are holding medical camps throughout the circumcision period" at no-cost, said Muraguri.

Back to other news for August 2010

Adapted from:
Inter Press Service
08.24.2010; Susan Anyangu-amu

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Quiz: Are You at Risk for HIV?
10 Common Fears About HIV Transmission
Male Circumcision for HIV Prevention


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