Photography by Unsplash
This is one thing you don’t want him to give you…
He showers you with gifts in exchange for sexual favours. No harm, no foul, right? Actually, according to the latest scary stats quoted by HIV management organisation CareWorks, he’s highly likely to give you a serious disease. Each year, about 380 000 new HIV infections occur in adolescent girls and young women aged 16 to 24 years in southern and eastern Africa. The reason for that ridiculously high number? It’s partly a result of young girls getting involved with – you guessed it – “blessers”.
Stubborn old men…
But why are the blessers more likely to have HIV in the first place? According to the CareWorks data, voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC), despite its well-publicised health benefits, remains rare among older men, who are now among the main drivers of the HIV epidemic.
So what are the protective benefits of VMMC? Well, first there’s HIV. But you can add to the list: it lowers the likelihood of penile cancer, contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as herpes, plus common urinary tract infections (UTIs). It also reduces the risk of prostate cancer – the most common cancer among South African men in their fifties and sixties.
In spite of these benefits, older men simply don’t undergo VMMC as often as youngsters. South African stats show that more than 60 percent of VMMCs are performed on men aged 10 to 19; men older than 25, and especially 35+, not so much…
Blessers not always blessed with logic
Hilton Julius, VMMC programme manager for CareWorks, gives the low-down. “While younger men are increasingly seeing circumcision as a social norm, older men fear ridicule from circumcising at an older age, since its culturally considered most appropriate before adolescence,” he says. “Another barrier is that their perceived risk of contracting HIV and other STIs is lower because of their age and that they’re in a ‘protective’ marriage or partnership. Concerns about the post-surgical abstinence period of six weeks have also led to low uptake among older men.”
He continues: “Older men are in part to blame for SA’s high HIV infection rate among young women. The findings of a study, which was released last year by the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in SA (CAPRISA), confirmed that the cycle of HIV transmission was driven by high rates of new HIV infections in adolescent girls from older men. Many of these men were also partners of similarly aged women who have HIV prevalence rates exceeding 60 percent, which sets in motion a deadly cycle.”
How do we stop the deadly cycle?
Circumcision, plain and simple, says Julius. “VMMC has been proven to reduce a man’s lifetime risk of HIV by up to 60 percent, and will in the long term have a substantial effect on reducing new HIV infections primarily in men, but by association in women as well.”
According to him, the health benefits of medical male circumcision far outweigh the risks. “Older men should seriously reconsider their reasons for not wanting to circumcise, since there is ample clinical evidence which points to its medical benefits. Most women should support VMMC, especially since it reduces their risk of acquiring the human papillomavirus, which is responsible for most cervical cancer cases.”
Don’t become one of SA’s seven million people living with HIV. To protect yourself and your family, book a free circumcision by SMSing your full name to 35255 and a trained VMMC counsellor will call you back.
Information courtesy of CareWorks