Zimbabwe: Neonatal Circumcision Yet to Gain Ground
October 5, 2010
The Ministry of Health and Child Welfare this year began promoting neonatal male circumcision, which is seen as a way to lower HIV infection rates in the long term. But as is the case with adult male circumcision, uptake of neonatal male circumcision is slow. Studies show male circumcision reduces the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission by up to 60 percent.
According to the ministry, just 5,000 Zimbabwean men have been circumcised since 2007. New mothers are reluctant to circumcise their infants, reports midwife Thubelihle Mkhwebu. Many new mothers have said the HIV fight should be confined to adults and do not want their babies "cut up." "We still have a lot of convincing to do," she said.
Cultural activists say male circumcision is a dying tradition in Zimbabwe, though some communities still perform the procedure as part of a rite of passage. "Not many new mothers quite understand why an infant has to be circumcised and many claim this is not part of their culture and even their religion," said Mkhwebu.
The ministry's goal is to have 80 percent of newborn males and sexually active adult males circumcised by 2015.
The slow uptake of neonatal male circumcision thus far also might be attributed to a continuing lack of comprehensive knowledge and understanding about HIV/AIDS among many Zimbabweans, as noted in the country's 2009 Multiple Indicator Monitoring Survey. It found that HIV/AIDS knowledge tends to increase with education and wealth. The reluctance to have male babies circumcised comes largely from mothers attending clinics in poor working-class suburbs, and there are concerns it could take some time for attitudes to change.
Inter Press Service
09.30.2010; Ignatius Banda
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