(Nairobi): Studies that have been concluded by the Kenyan government show that women are encouraging their partners to undergo circumcision. Studies done in Kenya further show that male circumcision reduces HIV infection in males by up to 60 percent.
Women are becoming more aware of staying safe through HIV prevention programs that the government promotes almost on a weekly basis.
Women rights groups say that they are increasingly becoming aware of their sexual and reproductive rights through community workshops that are usually organized by women organizations and the government.
“Circumcision makes sex more enjoyable for both of us apart from protecting both ourselves. When I was not circumcised, I was not hygienic and it was easy to infect my wife with several fungal infections. The difficult part of my circumcision was that I had to abstain from sex for six weeks since I had to recover from the wound,”
says Andy Mwangi who lives in Nairobi, a car mechanic in his late twenties.
Milda Okenga, also in her twenties encouraged her husband to undergo the cut. She does not look back and she is very happy.
“At first, he was reluctant and he was quick tempered. He did not talk to me and he was in denial. After some time he accepted. We went to a clinic together, got counseling and he was circumcised. We are a happy couple,” said Okenga.
Dr Nickolas Muraguri, the head of the National STD Control Programme
(NASCOP) says that since the male circumcision program begun in mid 2008, over 1.2 million males have turned up to be circumcised in different parts of the country.
“The program is working well, far beyond the handling capacity as everyone is concerned about AIDS and they fear being infected. They are mostly youths aged between 10 to 23 years of age but in some cases you can find men coming for the services as old as 70.
The program is free and is funded both by the Kenyan government and also the United States government. Studies have shown that male circumcision reduces the risk of sexually transmitted diseases which can also be transferred to the offspring if the male infects the mother during intercourse.
Other African countries that have had success in the male circumcision programs are Uganda, Tanzania, DR Congo and Rwanda as well as South Africa. Dr Muraguri expects the figure to double in the coming year as more young people approach adolescence and more facilities to increase the service expanded.
According to Dr. Fidah Govedi, a health practitioner and also Pumwani Maternity Hospital in Nairobi head of the newborn wing says that the program is good. Fewer babies have been born healthy with less incidences of being infected with HIV.
“There was a time when the number of HIV infected babies was very high and treating them was not just expensive but deadly. Babies unlike adults have weaker immune systems, makes them more vulnerable to death. Many of the women I talk to, at least most of them, their husbands are circumcised, the number who give me the yes, have more than tripled since 2008,” she explained.
Studies have shown that not only HIV infection can be gotten through from an uncircumcised male but also cervical cancer.
“Because they (men) know that HIV infection can be reduced by up to 60 percent. Prior to circumcision during the mandatory counseling sessions, we advice them to always use a condom or remain faithful to their partners,” said a counselor who wished not to be named.
Andy Mwangi does not regret being circumcised and he does not look back.
“In the beginning I feared loss of income as doctors prescribe bed rest of up to six weeks. I was also wondering how I was going to fend for my two young children aged between three and four years respectively. I also feared physical pain but I realized the procedure is smooth.
“I was put under anesthesia and the pain came after several hours of the procedure,” Mwangi recalls.
The Kenyan government through this financial budget year has allocated more than $120 million towards the management of HIV programs.
Additional money amounting to about $100 million is expected from international donor agencies and governments.
Most of the males that have been circumcised in Kenya since the program begun two four years ago, had to change their cultural beliefs. Most of those circumcised came from the Luo tribe in Western part of the country where their culture once barred them from having the cut.
Many got awareness through HIV campaigns and they decided to break the walled barriers and undergo the cut. It was not easy for most.
“While we have circumcised many, we only have reached 20 percent of all the males that we targeted. The funds allocated this year will do a great deal of service to the program.
The program has gone well. In 2008 when it begun, the public feared that some people has received cash for the program so as to fatten their pockets.
“I will be waiting until August to be circumcised as I have to consult with my wife. She may think ill of me if I do not inform her. In our culture, men are not circumcised. I have gone through counseling sessions and I want to go together with her so we can have an understanding,” says Julius Ochieng, a real estate agent aged 45 and working in Nairobi.
HIV prevalence in Kenya is just six percent compared with over 14 percent in 1999 when the disease was declared a national disaster by former president Daniel Moi. Kenya consumes over 15 million condoms per month but there is a condom shortage in the country so far of about 100 million according to the health ministry.
“The culture of having unprotected sex even if one is circumcised is long over. There are always risks involved,” said Dr Muraguri.