Saturday, November 21, 2015

MALAWI: Genital cutting is undermining condom use

The Maravi Post (Malawi)
August 30, 2015

Is voluntary male medical circumcision de-campaigning Condom use?

by da Kazembe
Blantyre, August 29, 2015: Seventeen-year-old Homic Muluwani of Bangwe Township is excited that at last he has had the most taunted voluntary male medical circumcision (VMMC) which to him certifies him to having unprotected sex now that he presumes he will be safe.

He is one of the more than 2000 males circumcised in the recent VMMC campaign which according to the Blantyre district VMMC coordinator, Jean Mhango was a success.

Much as the figures indicate the campaign as being successful, it is the mindset of the VMMC clients which seem to defeat the intended purpose for VMMC which is 60 percent risk reduction of HIV infection in HIV negative males who undergo the procedure.

Homic Muluwani and his friends tell the dangerous story as they wait for their turn to get circumcised at South Lunzu VMMC camp.

“I have had a girlfriend for the past two years and we have been having protected sex for fear of the HIV virus but this time I am going to enjoy unprotected sex since I am sure of my safety following the medical circumcision,” says Muluwani.

The 60 percent HIV risk reduction that follows after VMMC is surely misconceived in most males who are flocking for the procedure for they take it as a guarantee to having unprotected sex.

This leads to the query as to whether condom use is not being de-campaigned by VMMC promotion.

The Ministry of Health spokesperson, Adrian Chirumba says much as the opinion may arise from such sentiments, a study has not been carried out to validate this.

“Our implementing partners in VMMC such as Banja La Mstogolo (BLM), Population Services International (PSI) also have no records to validate the opinion,” says Chikumbe.

According to PSI one of the Ministry of Health’s implementing partners in VMMC, Malawi is working to scale up 605 coverage of male circumcision among negative males ages 10-34.

PSI national communications coordinator for VMMC, Lionel Chipeta points out that Malawi is working to scale up to 60 percent coverage of male circumcision among HIV-negative males aged from 10 to 34.

“VMMC is recognized as a high priority intervention in the Malawi National HIV and Aids Strategic Plan 2015-2020 and the National HIV Prevention Strategy 2015-2020,” explains Chipeta.

Martha Kamela of Mbayani Township finds her husband is better off uncircumcised due to the same misconception of the 60 percent risk reduction for she thinks once he is circumcised he will be at liberty to have unprotected sex with other females.

“Since my husband will know that he is safe from contracting the virus, chances are he will be cheating more as compared to now where he is afraid of contracting the virus,” says Kamela.

Kamela states that most men want to go under the knife as a guarantee to go and have unprotected sex without fear.

According to the VMMC South Lunzu site supervisor, Joseph Mdzinga, males aged between 10 and 19 patronized the services.

Looking at the age group, one can easily conclude that those accessing VMMC are still in the youthful exploring age hence the danger in the misconception.

The World Health Organisation HIV prevention package includes Abstinence Being faithful and Condomise (ABC), Post Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) as well as VMMC and if the later seems to be defeating the condom use as per the perception, one wonders whether VMMC will yield the intended results, come 2020.

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