February 29, 2024

Voluntary circumcision for South African prisoners to fight HIV

Province aims to circumcise 2.5 million men by 2014

Authorities in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province said they have been “overwhelmed” by numbers of prison inmates seeking to be circumcised in an attempt to fight the spread of HIV. The province has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in South Africa. KwaZulu-Natal health minister Sibongiseni Dhlomo said that only volunteers were being circumcised. “We’ve had more people wanting to be circumcised than our resources can actually manage. In fact, we’re overwhelmed,” Mr Dhlomo told the BBC last week.

He said circumcising prisoners was part of a broader program that started last April in order to increase circumcisions of sexually-active men in the province. He also said around 150 prisoners had been circumcised from one prison, Qalakabusha, and that more volunteers from that same prison were coming forward.

The province, a bastion of the Zulu tribe, has not practised circumcision for many years. Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, however, recently voiced support for circumcision to return to stop the transmission of HIV and AIDS. South Africa’s Prisoners Human Rights Organisation said it would approve of the decision as long as the prisoners were adequately informed. Spokesman Golden Miles Bhudu said it might be in the inmates’ best interests. “It may help fight the scourge as HIV/Aids, which appears to be spreading like wildfire in South African prisons,” he said
last week.

Over 5.7 million of South Africa’s population of 48 million are living with HIV, which is more than in any other country. A ban on circumcision was instituted by King Shaka in the 19th century, because the procedure put his warriors out of action for months on end. Dr Dhlomo said since that 10,000 men had chosen to be circumcised since the program began in April. The KwaZulu Natal health department aims to circumcise 2.5 million men by June 2014. ~
BBC News, Oct 29; AFP, Oct 30

Jared Yee