Male Circumcision

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mad rush to be circumcised

Published on 28/09/2008

By Standard on Sunday


Days after Prime Minister Odinga rallied community leaders to advocate for male circumcision, hospitals are struggling to cope with the large number of people seeking the service.

The largest turn out has been witnessed at the Migosi Health Centre where the exercise was being conducted free of charge by volunteer doctors.

On Tuesday, a day after Raila launched the campaign, prospective patients flocked health centre seeking the services.

Raila, who has fanatical following among the Luo told men to go for the cut following research findings that the circumcised are at a lower risk of contracting HIV.

"We did not anticipate it. Raila’s entry into the campaign has given it a political dimension with many people rushing to be cut just because he has said it," said a nurse at the Nyanza Provincial Hospital.

From newborns to the youth, the middle-aged and wazees are queuing to face the knife.

Surgeons at the Migosi clinic were clearly overwhelmed and had to defer 27 men. Forty-six had turned up for the cut.

"Surgery is a brittle issue. We cannot hurry the process, we have to be slow but sure and handle patients with a lot of care," said a surgeon Michael Oyaa.

The process takes about 20-30 minutes, the surgeon said. It costs Sh2,000 in private clinics. Many are turning up at Government hospitals where the service is free.

A counsellor at Migosi, John okeyo, said they had booked fresh dates for those deferred.

"Many people have heeded the call, and the turn out is overwhelming," said Okeyo.

But were they queuing for the cut because they were convinced it was the right thing to do or because Raila had said it?

Many of those interviewed said they wanted to be cut to minimise risk of HIV infection.

Kennedy Oduor, 20, said: "I want to be circumcised as I have been told it can prevent syphilis and also reduce my risk to get HIV."

He added: "I am not getting circumcised because Raila has said. His campaign is only a motivation to me and an assurance that I am doing the right thing."

Charles Otieno, 39, said he had planned to get the cut long before the Tom Mboya conference where leaders endorsed circumcision.

"You see this thing is voluntary. No one is under any obligation to go for it. You also do not need to tell people whether you have been cut or not. It is your secret," said Otieno.

Faster services

The youth are counselled and advised to undergo voluntary HIV test and counselling at VCTs set at the circumcision centres.

The officer-in-charge of Migosi VCT Ben Abuto said some of those seeking circumcision did not want to be tested for HIV.

By last Wednesday evening, about 30 per cent of those registered for the cut had been tested.

"Many of these people just want the cut and nothing else. They say they do not want to know their status," said the officer.

There has also been a massive turnout at the Lumumba Health Centre, where the research on the link between HIV and circumcision was conducted.

The centre, run jointly by the Kisumu Municipal Council and the Universities of Nairobi, Illinois and Manitoba (Unim), has superior facilities and is attending to the patients faster.

"Many people, especially the youth prefer Lumumba because it has superior facilities and more doctors," said Daniel Ouma, a form three student, after leaving the theatre.

Long Queues

The activity was slowly picking up at various district hospitals and health centres across the province.

At the Nyanza Provincial and Kisumu District hospitals, the queues were not as long as those at Lumumba and Migosi.

At the district hospitals doctors said the oldest patient they had handled was 56 years old while the youngest was a four-month-old.