IRIN/PlusNews Examines Issues Surrounding Male Circumcision in Kenya’s Luo Community
Kenya's plan to launch a male circumcision campaign in the province of Nyanza in late September to curb the spread of HIV is facing difficulties from some members of the Luo community, IRIN/PlusNews reports. The Luo community in Nyanza traditionally does not practice male circumcision, and members of the Luo Council of Elders -- an advisory body that still holds significant influence -- have threatened to disrupt the campaign's launch if they are not consulted, according to IRIN/PlusNews. Riaga Ogallo, chair of the council, said that the council is not opposed to male circumcision "as long as it is voluntary," adding that "if anybody thinks they can force something alien on our community, then they are mistaken." Ogallo added that he is concerned the emphasis on male circumcision could encourage unprotected sex among young men.
According to IRIN/Plus News, Nyanza Province has the highest HIV prevalence in the country at 15.3%, and Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Health Minister Peter Anyang' Nyong'o in August called on cultural leaders to embrace male circumcision. A pilot male circumcision project run by the reproductive health organization Marie Stopes Kenya was launched in advance of the government program. The project has carried out more than 3,000 clinical circumcisions in Nyanza since April 2007. Kawando Agot -- a researcher with a joint project of the University of Illinois, the University of Nairobi and the University of Manitoba that conducted circumcision trials in Kisumu, Kenya -- said that conflicting messages from leaders could become counter-productive to the goals of the program. Agot added that it is important for people to know that male circumcision "is not effective on its own, unless combined with other methods like condom use and faithfulness." According to IRIN/PlusNews, various steps are being taken to prepare for the circumcision campaign. The local health group IMPACT-RDO is developing educational materials, and the government and Manitoba University are holding consultative meetings with religious, cultural and community leaders; health providers; and young people (IRIN/PlusNews, 9/11).