Why Did The Circumcision Campaign Fail In AIDS-plagued Swaziland?
Author: Ayke Gubbels
Friday 31st of May 2013 02:53:37 PM


An ambitious plan to circumcise the majority of men in Swaziland - in order to reduce the risk of HIV transmission in a country with the world's highest HIV prevalence-  went wrong. The programme, called  ‘Accelerated Saturation Initiative (ASI)’, was launched in 2010, and extended to 30th of March 2012, when their target goal - the circumcision of 80 percent of the Swazi males between the age of 15 and 49 within a year - showed to be a failure. Health workers who spoke to IRIN wondered why the short implementation time was not extended. Ending the programme, they fear, may suggest to international donors that the country is a hopeless case. The causes of this lack of success can be found in multiple layers: fear of pain, fear of something going wrong and unfamiliarity of the procedure in general among the targeted people.   “When I heard I would still have to use a condom, I reasoned: ‘What is the point?’” said Samkelo Mduli, a university student.


Another reason for the rejection of the circumcision project was not anticipated by ASI promoters beforehand: the strong belief in witchcraft, which is widespread in Swaziland. Health Minister Xaba alluded to this when he told the Times of Swaziland, “Some men feared that the foreskin could end up in the wrong hands, being used by some unscrupulous people for their ulterior motives.” He said that the circumcision initiative failed because of arrogance on the part of its promoters.

„It would have been easy to be honest and explain to the Swazi men that their foreskins would be incinerated like all surgical refuse. But the promoters said, ‘Oh, no, we can’t talk about witchcraft. What will the donors say?’” 

The ASI programme was an attempt to duplicate in Swaziland the circumcision successes seen in Kenya and other countries, without apparently doing the pre-campaign ground work. 

Info: male circumcision has been scientifically proven to reduce a man's risk of contracting HIV through vaginal intercourse by as much as 60 percent and follow-up studies have found that the effectiveness of male circumcision in HIV prevention is maintained for several years.  Of course, as Samkelo Mduli so wisely noticed, the use of a condom is still absolutely necessary to prevent new infections! So, dear readers, don’t forget to put one on before you put it in.

Branislava Jokovic 


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