The South African National AIDS Council’s (SANAC) Civil Society Forum (CSF) is deeply saddened by the 23 reported deaths that have occurred since the start of the 2014 winter initiation season. The forum calls for an end to these preventable deaths and suffering, and the adoption of safer circumcision processes.
The Civil Society Forum, which represents leaders from, among others, the men’s, youth, women’s, the non-governmental organisation and children’s sectors, invites all stakeholders, including the Department of Health, the House of Traditional Leaders, the South African Police Services, parents and young men to come together to find solutions that can be urgently implemented during this circumcision season. The CSF calls for a stakeholder meeting to take place on 15 July 2014.
To take the conversation forward, the CSF has put together a position paper outlining its stance on safe circumcision. This Call to Action paper will be available on the SANAC Website by 11 July 2014. “The primary aim of the SANAC Civil Society Forum Position Paper on Safe Circumcision is to prevent injuries and save lives, not to promote either traditional circumcision or medical male circumcision. Both are equally important approaches, however it remains vital for this country to prioritise the lives of young men. One life is enough for us to stand up and address the community challenges”, said Steve Letsike, chairperson of CSF.
In summary, the position paper’s main points are:
- Pre-circumcision Counselling and Clinical Assessment: Any male who is interested in being circumcised should be counselled about the risks and health benefits of circumcision and should be tested for HIV and screened for sexually-transmitted infections and relevant clinical conditions. Parents should be involved in this counselling process so that they are also aware of the risks and benefits;
- Zero stigma towards traditional or medical male circumcision: No one should experience stigma because of his choice of circumcision method;
- Sterile Circumcision Procedure: Sterile gloves and blades should be used during all circumcision procedures. Sterile dressing should be applied to prevent infection; Counselling on Safe Post-circumcision Wound Care: Circumcised men should be properly counselled on how to care for the wound, and when to seek help if complications develop; and
- Respect the Human rights of Those Undergoing Circumcision: Any form of physical abuse is an abuse of human rights and dignity and should not be tolerated. A strict monitoring mechanism must be put in place to ensure compliance. All circumcision practices must be entirely voluntary. No one should be stopped from seeking medical care;
- Prevent Dehydration: Those responsible for the care of those undergoing circumcision must be aware that providing a reasonable amount of water is critical to the health of the circumcised male within the first 8 days and that it is illegal, under The Eastern Cape Health Standards in Traditional Circumcision Act (2001), to withhold this.
“We recognise the meaningful value of the teachings that the initiation process instil in young men. As a practice that has continued for hundreds of years, clearly many things are working within this tradition. We have no intention of interfering in those aspects. We would like traditional leaders and practitioners to work with us to find solutions for those aspects where there are problems because these problems are harming, and in some cases even killing our young men,” says Khanyisa Dunjwa, AVAC advocacy fellow on safe male circumcision hosted by the Networking HIV, AIDS Community of South Africa.
Bafana Khumalo, men’s sector leader, summed it up: “In the spirit of saving lives, we are asking for all role players to recognise that we have a crisis on our hands. We need to consider new ways of solving these problems. We cannot allow our boys to die because we are not willing to consider new ideas.”
For more information contact:
Mmapaseka Steve Letsike
Chair Civil Society Forum
South African National AIDS Council
The SANAC Women's Sector want to hear from you!
- What are women's sector organisations saying about male circumcision?
- What can we do to better promote women's voices within this discussion?
Email your thoughts, suggestions and experiences to SANACWS Communications at email@example.com.
For more about the SANAC Women's Sector Secretariat, refer to www.sanac.org.za/civil-society-sectors/item/14-women-s-sector.
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