Thursday, September 20, 2007

Uganda: If You Have Ears, Cut Your Foreskin

New Vision (Kampala)

19 September 2007

Hilary Bainemigisha

IF fire broke out in a building, the Government would not rush for the nearest exit! It would need to appoint a commission of inquiry to investigate the fire, organise debates on whether to put out the fire or evacuate the building, consult with partners on how best to react, build consensus, write a proposal on the way forward and then appeal for funding to be able to draft a policy on fire. That would take, on a conservative estimate, four to five centuries.

Governments are naturally like that. They only react spontaneously if it has something to do with teargas distribution. Those who are familiar with marital obligations know the amount of patience required to make a female partner ready for CHOGM. And there is nothing we can do about it, but be patient.

But, in the mean time, there are cases where it is suicidal to just sit and wait for the Government to snail through bureaucracy with a solution. Take circumcision for example. You must have heard of circumcision trials conducted in Uganda, Kenya and South Africa which proved that sharpening it actually reinforces the protective shield against HIV infection.

According to the World Health Organisation, male medical circumcision is the most compelling evidence-based HIV preventive strategy since the discovery of ARV's potential to stop mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

So what does the Government do?

What else, other than appointing commissions to see how best they can consult widely, draft a plan to roll out a policy which will roll out a programme which will roll out circumcision. But in the mean time, uncircumcised penises are allowing in goals and denying us a chance to advance to Ghana in 2008.

Are you going to be that patient? Do you know that medical experts rarely agree on anything? (They are still debating what limb was created first when it is obviously the penis, the sacred author of life).

If, for once in a long time, there is medical consensus that circumcision works, why should we wait for Ugandans to build consensus? We never vote together, after all!

Listen: Take the author of life for improvement IMMEDIATELY - no, first read to the end. Get to know the facts, decide on your own, ask the tough questions and face the knife. Just make sure you do it medically and safely and, like the Cranes, wait for 60 days before you can qualify for the Nations Cup finals.

A study in the 12 months before the population survey revealed that 32% of HIV-positive women and 22% of HIV-positive men had sex with non-regular partners in the past year. 34% men and 5% women who were HIV-positive had sex with more than two partners. Of these, only 16% men and 17% women used condoms. And among discordants (where one partner is positive and the other negative), 5% used condoms consistently.

Is this the environment you and your sons want to swim through with an uncircumcised tail?

If I were you, I would look at my penis, look at all the male members of my family and think about the five million who die annually of HIV. Then I would mobilise all of us, at whatever age, to get to hospital. I would also vow to afford the same protection to any newly born son to the family.

But remember, circumcision does not make you invincible. It only improves your escape chances by 60%. You still need to move along with the Abstinence Be Faithful, Use a Condom (ABC) approach, if you want to see your grandchildren.

Finally, I call upon our female population to add a voice to my plea.

Find a way of getting men off their behinds to face the knife. The tool in question belongs to you as much as it belongs to men and had it not been for you, there would not be need to circumcise it.

For the rest of Ugandans, if you have ears, cut your foreskin!