Culture, Misconceptions Effect Low VMMC uptake in Manicaland

Sharon Chigeza


MUTARE- HIV prevention remains key in efforts to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 with male
circumcision one of the five Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS)
pillars of HIV prevention, a pillar that has been poorly accepted in Manicaland.
According to information revealed at the Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC)
multi stakeholder forum on sexual reproductive health, against a target reach of close to 11000
males in the province only 6 411 came forward for voluntary male medical circumcision
(VMMC) in the last quarter of 2022.
Male circumcision has been shown to reduce HIV acquisition by men from heterosexual sex by
approximately 60 percent making VMMC programmes a crucial component of the HIV
prevention portfolio in countries with generalised epidemics in Africa.
Speaking on the sidelines of the ZNFPC Fourth Quarter Review Forum, Padare Programmes
officer, Webster Muzulu said acceptance and uptake of voluntary male medical circumcision
remains low in spite of programmes put in place to encourage acceptance of the procedure.
“Acceptance of male circumcision in Manicaland remains generally low. This is mainly as a
result of socio-cultural influences. A majority of men still have misconceptions with regards to
where their foreskins will end up at and what they are to be used for,” said Muzulu.
He added that male circumcision came as a culture shock to those of Manicaland province as
historically the ethnic groups of the province were not enculturated in such practices.
“Culturally the Shangaan of Chiredzi district were known to initiate their boys into manhood
through circumcision making it much easier to influence such ethnic groups into voluntary male
medical circumcision unlike the population of Manicaland. The drive towards increasing VMMC
acceptance and uptake is being derailed as there are still a lot of misconceptions and half-truths
associated with the procedure as this practice has never been passed on as tradition,” he said.
For the Shangaan, Venda and Mberengwa people, circumcision symbolises the transition of the
male child into adulthood.
In Shangaan culture, where male circumcision is known as ‘hoko’, only circumcised males can
marry within the community as uncircumcised men are considered immature and are barred from
participating in men’s gatherings.
Apart from culture and misconceptions regarding male medical circumcision, Muzulu revealed
that reluctance was also as result of fear of the needle by most men.
“Men may not openly admit that they dread the pain that comes along with the recovery period
but it has also been one of the main contributing factors to the low uptake of the procedure. Men

generally do not have health seeking behaviour and that is why there is a low uptake, men don’t
like going to hospitals.”
Circumcision is the surgical removal of the skin covering the tip of the penis and it is fairly
common for new born boys in certain parts of the world.
It is also a cultural or religious ritual for many Jewish and Islamic families as well as certain
tribes in Africa and Australia.
Circumcision thus can be a matter of family tradition, personal hygiene or preventative health
In other cases, particularly in certain parts of Africa, circumcision is recommended for older
boys or men to reduce the risk of certain sexually transmitted infections and as part of ritual
initiation into manhood.

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