By Sharon Kavhu and Annines Angula
Windhoek - The Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) in Namibia is receiving a positive response this year as women, traditional leaders and other community members are participating in mobilising men for the programme.
VMMC is defined by the UNAIDS as the complete removal of the foreskin of the male reproductive organ by surgical means.
In an interview, VMMC Social Mobilisation and Demand Creation Manager, Johannes Haufiku, told The Southern Times that this year’s campaign is involving both males and females.
“Unlike the previous years, this year we are working with the local government officials, health workers from Ministry of Health and Social Services, women and traditional leaders in mobilising people,” said Haufiku.
“Women are also playing a significant role in encouraging men to be circumcised as well as bringing teenage boys for the programme.”
He said the programme also received a positive response in sponsorship, as PEPFAR and Global Fund have partnered with the programme.
While there have been misconceptions about VMMC and conflict of interest with other cultures, such as the Oshiwambo culture, Haufiku said this year the programme is offering more educative sessions, which are bearing positive fruits.
“The misconceptions associated with VMMC are usually associated with lack of knowledge on the subject, however, our engagement with traditional leaders has seen the demystification of VMMC and thus we are seeing a positive response from the community.
“We are using the social media platforms as a way of disseminating information on VMMC and the response is amazing. We are also having several social media audiences responding positively on negative posts by anti-circumcision organisations,” he said.
However, Haufiku noted that lack of resources and funding are hindering the VMMC programme.
He said: “With more resources, we can do more and can exceed our annual target of 30,000 men. There is a need for more roadshows whereby we will provide entertainment, to educate the audience on the essence of VMMC and also having The Dogg entertaining them.”
The fact that The Dogg, one the leading artists in Namibia, is the ambassador for the programme is also contributing to the positive response from different communities.
Speaking to The Southern Times, The Dogg, whose real name is Martin Morocky, said some people are getting their inspirations of circumcision from him.
“I got circumcised last year and some of my fans are getting circumcised merely because I did, they say ‘The Dogg did it, so I am going to do it’,” said The Dogg.
“It feels good to be an ambassador of VMMC. Generally, I love advocating for the wellness of people. Before I became the ambassador of VMMC, I have been working with the Ministry of Health and Social Services in the HIV fight through campaigns and music. My parents died of HIV when I was just a little boy and I do not want anything like that to happen to anyone.”
The Dogg said when he got circumcised, he had a better understanding of the VMMC and its relevance.
“Before I was circumcised, I used to have the foreskin that trapped all the dirt on my reproductive organ and resulting in an unpleasant smell at the end of the day. However, now without the foreskin, I am seeing a personal improvement in my hygiene,” said the VMMC campaign ambassador.
“Getting circumcised reduces the chances of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), STI (sexually transmitted infections) and HPV (human papillomavirus) transmission by 60%. Some people thought if they were circumcised, they had a green light to unprotected sexual intercourse but we encourage people to still use protection even after VMMC.
“Uncircumcised men are at risk of developing penile cancer because the foreskin can trap the HPV virus that causes cancerous cells. Such men can also put their partners at risk of developing cervical cancer as the HPV is transmitted sexually.”
The VMMC campaign started in 2016 and The Dogg has been the ambassador of the programme since then.
Initially, the campaign was implemented in four regions, namely: Oshana, Zambezi, Erongo and Khomas. However, this year it has expanded to Ohangwena and //Kharas.