Circumcision Booms in Kenya
Kenya government hopes to circumcise two million people in the Luo province where the practice is abhorred. Top politicians from the area confessed they have gone to have the foreskin of their male organs removed as part of an awareness to curb HIV/AIDS. They spoke to spur people on to go and circumcise. Standing before an audience of 500 in the western city of Kisumu, including Prime Minister Raila Odinga, three government ministers and an MP said they had secretly undergone the operation, the BBC reported.
Medical researchers contend that it reduces the risk of HIV infection among men, but have maintained that using condoms is far more effective. It is reported that five other MPs of Kenya have pledged their intention to have a circumcision – after seeking medical advice – as part of a push to promote the culturally taboo practice. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS is high in the Luo community and the government has recently introduced a programme to promote the practice to curb the spread of AIDS.
Unlike the nearby Luhya community, who last month turned out in large numbers to undergo circumcision in an annual festival, removing the foreskin is not performed as rite of passage amongst the Luo. The politicians said they feared losing their post, but have received an unflinching support from their colleagues – including Odinga’s brother, an assistant minister who agreed to undergo the procedure. It is seen as a boost for the Luos to support circumcision.
Hundreds of young men have begun to turn up for circumcision at public and private hospitals. Robert Ogol, a youth counsellor, is one who has snubbed the advice. He accused the community’s elders of being afraid of change and said young men should be allowed to make their own decision about the practice. “I got circumcised while I was already married. Since I got circumcised, even my wife can tell you that she is very comfortable,” he said. At the Lumumba Health Centre in Kisumu, more than 80 medical practitioners have already received training. “We are teaching young men and older people about circumcision. They usually come for circumcision of their own free will,” says Wycliffe Omondi, one of the doctors providing training at the centre.
Nearly 1,000 men have been circumcised since March and medical workers receive two days of training, he said. However, the Luo Council of Elders is not convinced that circumcision lowers the risk of infection. “I don’t think it will be a solution to fight the spread of AIDS,” said Joe Asila, a pastor and Luo elder. “Other communities practise circumcision, but there is still a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS,” he said. Meanwhile, the practice is catching up well in Malawi where hundreds of men are reported queuing at medical centres to be circumcised.