Circumcision gets mobile in W Cape

The 2012 HSRC survey found that almost half of men 15 years and older surveyed had been circumcised. He majority of young males aged 15–24 years had been circumcised in medical facilities, while older males had been circumcised in traditional settings. (File Photo)
Since the 2010 launch of the HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) campaign, about 1.4 million men have been circumcised.
Since the 2010 launch of the HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) campaign, about 1.4 million men have been circumcised.

Two mobile operating theatres aim to bring free medical male circumcision (MMC) to villages and rural areas of the Western Cape.

MMC – the surgical removal of the foreskin of a man’s penis – can reduce a man’s risk of HIV by 60 percent.

The mobile units, launched in Stellenbosch over the weekend, are being operated by the SA Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu) Health Programme, in partnership with the health department.

“We will be popping into every little village, no matter how tiny, in the Winelands, Overberg and Eden areas,” said Nikki Soboil, CEO of the SACTWU Health Programme.

“Our foot soldiers will go beforehand to mobilise communities and the theatres will follow. Then we will move on to the next little village.”

The mobile theatres are adapted shipping containers loaded onto Mercedes trucks, and were designed by a Stellenbosch engineering firm.

“The theatres are completely self-sufficient. There is a generator for electricity and a tank for water,” explained SACTWU’s Jonathan Cockburn.

“The door is hermetically sealed to prevent dust entering. A ventilator keeps the air pressure constant and filters out air-borne bacteria. There are two operating tables, both bolted to the floor so that they are completely stable. After all, you are dealing with someone’s manhood so you can’t have the doctor’s hand slipping.”

Each circumcision takes 30 minutes with a local anaesthetic injected into the skin of the penis so that the procedure is pain-free. Recovery takes around six weeks, during which time the circumcised man should not have sex. Most men report only minor discomfort after the circumcision that is relieved by over-the-counter painkillers.

Circumcision also provides protection against other sexually transmitted infections including the Human Papilloma Virus, which causes cervical cancer. So removal of the foreskin is good news for women too.

* If you want the theatre to visit your community in the Western Cape, call 0607010101. For more information, browse to




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