Young initiates are escorted to their homes after spending several weeks at an initiation school. File picture: Itumeleng English
Polokwane - As June fast approaches, many young boys in the Vhembe district in Limpopo will be sent to mountain schools for circumcision at the annual winter initiation schools.

But because of the dangers of contracting HIV/Aids and other diseases, some parents now no longer want to send their boys to the mountains, preferring them to undergo medical male circumcision performed at a hospital or clinic.

Despite medical male circumcision being offered for free at most government health facilities, many families who live in villages far away from public health facilities, have great difficulty sending their sons for circumcision, preferring the mountain schools which take place near their villages during the month of June.

To address and encourage parents to choose the safer medical male circumcision procedure, the Centre For HIV/Aids Prevention Studies (CHAPS) in Vhembe is offering free transportation, bookings and circumcisions to families who cannot afford to take their sons to their nearest public health facilities. These services are being offered at almost all public clinics and hospitals across the district in partnership with the department of health.

“Most people, especially those living in rural areas, still lack proper information when it comes to the importance of medical male circumcision. Not that we no longer value the importance of our traditions and culture, but gone are those days when young boys were told that to be a men they have to first go to the mountains for circumcision. Now we have the danger of diseases one can acquire through being circumcised in the mountains, hence we are making it possible for young boys to be circumcised at health facilities,” said Phumudzo Themeli, a professional nurse employed by CHAPS.

Research done by the World Health Organisation has found that male circumcision, if done correctly, can reduce the risk of HIV infection by 60% and also helps to prevent cervical cancer in women.

According to Themeli, many people still need to be educated on how they can protect themselves against the spread of HIV/Aids and why medical male circumcisions at health facilities is preferable to the mountain initiation schools.

“Our primary aim is to fight against the spread of HIV/Aids and other ulcerative sexual transmitted infections through providing free and safe voluntary medical circumcision. Our main target is sexually active males from the age of 15 years and above. We are based at almost all the health facilities in the district and we also have a mobile truck which we use to travel to rural areas to encourage people to get circumcised,” said Ntwanano Mhangwani, CHAPS’ outreach coordinator.

He added: “Despite helping people to get circumcised, we also encourage them to get tested and know their HIV status, as it is the right thing to do. Since we started in May last year, we have already circumcised about 7,700 boys.” 

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