Having seen a member of his family suffer due to AIDS and through volunteering as a home-based care giver with his local clinic’s HIV and AIDS programme, Thulani Radebe of Senaoane, Soweto, knows only too well the effects of HIV and AIDS on individuals, families and communities. Through his clinic in Senaoane, Thulani learned that he can also get help’¦ he can get additional protection from HIV infection by getting circumcised.
‘I got information that if your foreskin is intact, you are likely to get diseases like STIs. So, I decided to remove it but I found that private doctors were too expensive. Then, my cousin explained to me that I can circumcise for free at Zola Clinic. I was happy and I went to Zola Clinic. They counseled me and the good thing about it is they even tested me for HIV. My results came back negative. They then circumcised me. I’m avoiding infection as it’s mostly us, the youth, who are most vulnerable’, says Thulani.
He was speaking at the recent launch of the Zola Clinic Medical Male Circumcision Centre. He says after his circumcision he has since recruited about 20 of his friends to also go for medical circumcision. Thulani adds that being circumcised has also helped him hygienically.
‘The good thing is that when I pass urine it no longer splashes on my pants. My urine shoots straight. Even when I wash my penis, I no longer have white, smelly particles underneath the foreskin. So, I encourage other guys to circumcise so that we, South African men, can be clean’.
The ANC Councillor in the Zola community, Nomsa Hlomendlini, a proud woman of Xhosa origin, opted for her grand-children to be circumcised medically, instead of the traditional way.
‘I’m a Xhosa girl, but brought up here in Jo’burg. I never brought a boy into this world. I only have four girls. And with my family tradition and culture, I’ve always been very scared. Thank God that you didn’t give me a boy because I was scared when I went to Eastern Cape at home for our tradition because I always saw them when they went to the mountain. But since I had grand-children, I have four boys. Today the two are here right now as we are talking. They are patients here. And now I know they are men’, Hlomendlini says.
Steeped deep in tradition in some cultures, male circumcision, is nothing new. It is, if you like, ancient practice modified – with benefits for modern health.
‘Let us remember that circumcision is a cultural practice of many ethnic groups. Others do it after the birth of their sons, others do it as a sign of boys graduating to manhood, others do it for religious reasons, to mention but a few examples. This practice has been around since time immemorial.
The important thing to note is that medical male circumcision reduces the risk of HIV infection and lowers the risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections. It is definitely not a solution to HIV infection’, says Salfina Mulauzi of the city of Johannesburg’s Health and Human Development unit.
Warning that medical male circumcision is not the solution to HIV prevention, Mulauzi added that, in order to turn the tide against the epidemic, all available strategies need to be exhausted.
‘I hope that you will spread the message to our men and youth so that we can put brakes to the spreading of this disease. The CoJ Health and Human Development firmly believes that medical male circumcision will assist in lowering the rate of infection if all the dos and the don’ts are understood by our men and young men, in particular’.
Themba Thwala, a traditional leader who lives in Zola, is one of many traditional healers the clinic has trained for its primary health care community out-reach programme. Although he’s in favour of medical male circumcision, he is concerned that the service does not involve cultural teachings of manhood.
‘A lot of young men do come for circumcision because they’ve heard that they won’t contract sexually transmitted infections when circumcised. They don’t circumcise because they want to grow up and become men, but they are rushing to have sex. I’d like it if the circumcision centre can be linked to a traditional school where young men can be taught how to become men’, says Thwala.