Slicing for life

Slicing for life

……How circumcision can save lives

 

Rose Moremoholo

MASERU

IN a male dominated society like Lesotho the decision to get circumcised has always been that of men. It has always been a cultural rather than a health issue.

But with research showing clear evidence that circumcision is now central to the health of both men and women it is time to see it as a necessity rather than an optional cultural exercise. Research has shown that circumcision helps reduce the spread of HIV and significantly cuts the chances of women getting cervical cancer.

The challenge is now how to persuade men to get circumcised.  Yet no matter how many campaigns are done, the final decision rests on what conversation happens in the home or relationship.

This is what policy makers, non-governmental organisations and advocacy groups are grappling with. It starts with changing the attitudes of men towards their sexual relationship with women.

But for that to happen women have to be empowered with the knowledge necessary to persuade their partners to go through circumcision.

Jhpiego, a Japanese health aid organisation, is on that mission. Together with the Ministry of Health, Jhpiego has been educating men and women about the benefits of circumcision, especially in the fight against cervical cancer.

That was the theme of a march held last Friday in Maseru.
Sejojo Phaaroe, president of the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Lesotho, revealed shocking statistics of women who die of cervical cancer.

“More and more women die every day because of cancer related diseases, and at least 40.9 percent in Lesotho die because of cervical cancer,” Phaaroe said at the march.

“In developed countries 80 percent of cervical cancer cases are detected at a curable stage when in developing countries 80 percent of cervical cancer cases are detected at an incurable stage,” Phaaroe said.

Phaaroe said that the most reliable way to fight this disease is for women and men to work together. Men, he said, should protect their partners by getting circumcised.

Phaaroe said an uncircumcised penis is prone to Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer.

vmmc march2“Most of these viruses find a home in the foreskin and can be transferred from one person to the other through contact and open cuts,” Phaaroe said.

“For instance, herpes can attack the hands and mouth if that was the contact point and therefore knowing that we use our hand to touch and arouse each other there is more danger in contact of an uncircumcised penis,” he said.

 

Litšoanelo Motsoahae, Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) technical officer at Jhpiego, said “too many women die because of cervical cancer yet we can work together to minimise these deaths”.

Motsoahae said most men fear the pain but now there are two options to circumcision, surgical and prepex.

“The surgical way is when we cut off the foreskin and stitch around the cut area but when we use prepex we use a rubber ring that holds the foreskin tight until it falls off,” Motsoahae said.

“Although pain is expected in both ways, prepex has proven itself to be the less painful method and more men opt for it.”

“The pain lasts for a few weeks and by bearing that pain men protect their partner against STI’s and protect themselves against prostate cancer as well”.

Motsoahae said she has received complaints from men saying that the sex is no longer the same as the head of the penis is not sensitive to the sex act any more.

“This is because the head has adapted to the friction it faces since the removal of the foreskin and consequently the sensitivity has declined, however this is a positive impact to us women because we are known to take longer to reach orgasm than men but now we get to the peak of joy together”.

“While we may be saying that chances of spreading and being infected with HPV are minimised, circumcision creates a happy healthy family,” she said.

Mothers of new born children to the age of two months are advised to circumcise their children because, “it is not painful and no stitching is needed for them and they grow up protected”.

“So, let us make our children a favour of a lifetime and circumcise them, they will thank us later,” Motsoahae said.

Motshoahae however said circumcision does not protect men from being infected with STI’s and diseases.

“We still advocate for abstinence, being faithful and condomising while circumcised.”

Deputy Minister of Health, Liteboho Kompi, said women have a responsibility help protect each other.

“This is a huge responsibility bestowed to us, we have the key to the minimisation of cervical cancer deaths and we have a key to good life for our people,” Kompi said.

“How I wish that such information could be delivered in a larger congregation than this one that we have because this is news for the whole country to adhere to,” she said.

Kompi further said the advocacy should be done in a respectful manner because “we don’t want this (campaign) to be a factor of divorce and fights in families”.

“Women, approach your partners with respect and mindfulness,” Kompi said.

“They should know that as much as we want that part clean, the idea is to protect us from cervical cancer and protect them from prostate cancer,” she added.

Mpolokeng Tjakata, 30, a participant at the event said that she was happy that she was part of such an educational march.

“I learnt that cervical cancer kills more women than I had imagined in this country and we can help to minimise the numbers by asking our brothers, uncles, male friends and partners to circumcise,” Tjakata said.

Tjakata said she is going to encourage more males in her life to get circumcised.

Palesa Lenkoane, 35, said she knows that besides protecting themselves from cervical cancer, “a sharpened pencil writes better than a blunt pencil”.

“We need it clean and tidy and we need it to do a good job just as it has to,” Lenkoane said.

 

 

 

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