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The number of successful traditional circumcisions in the Western Cape is expected to improve under a new arrangement in which provincial health authorities are to provide sterile circumcision kits to traditional surgeons.
Under a memorandum of understanding, signed by Health MEC Theuns Botha and Robertson traditional leader Chief Jerico Mayataza on Friday, initiates are to be circumcised in a more sterile environment and receive other health support services such as post-operative and HIV counselling.
Botha said the undertaking, the first of its kind, was aimed at building bridges between traditional and medical circumcision practices.
“The agreement focuses on methods that can be implemented without compromising the cultural practice of initiation.
“The main focus is the supply of services that support and respect the initiation process.”
While the agreement applied only to the greater Robertson area, Botha said it was a “forerunner” of agreements elsewhere in the province.
Traditional leaders had taken the initiative of asking the department to team up with them.
Botha said his department would continue with its medical male circumcision programme. The Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport would play the primary role in traditional initiation.
He said one of the motives for medical circumcision was to reduce the number of adverse cases involving traditional circumcision. “We want to equip and skill the circumcisers. The objective is to promote the cultural practices without compromising our health objectives,” he said.
Circumcision has been proved to reduce the transmission of HIV by 60 percent and has been adopted globally as a prevention strategy for HIV/Aids.
The province launched the medical circumcision programme in 2011. It is part of a wider policy that aims to reduce the incidence of HIV and sexually transmitted infections.
According to a national survey, HIV prevalence increased by almost 16 percent from 2002-2008 among males aged between 15 and 49 years.
In the Cape Winelands, about 1 500 medical circumcisions have been performed since April, and in the province at least 3 600 men have been circumcised at clinics. About 123 cases had complications, but Botha said this was within the norm of between 2 and 4 percent. While medical circumcision was increasing steadily, a lot had to be done to get men to choose this avenue.
In collaboration with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, the department was providing first aid training and kits to nurses and traditional surgeons. Nurses also received bibs and the surgeons overalls. Doctors were on call for emergencies, and local authorities were encouraged to provide clean water.