By Meluse Kapatamoyo
In Zambia, it is estimated that every three hours, a young person gets infected with HIV. To counter this, the country has committed itself to reducing the rate of new infections by 50 percent by 2015, using a combination of prevention strategies such as male circumcision.
However, according to 18 year old Solomon Nkonde “adolescents have the lowest levels of male circumcision amongst all the age groups in Zambia. There are a lot of reasons as to why our fellow brothers do not want to get circumcised, among them; fear of severe pain, fear of losing sensitivity and lack of information on the benefits and how the circumcision process is performed.”
Nkonde who represented voices of the young people at the just ended Third National HIV Prevention Convention, added that “while other young people felt it was not part of their culture, others wanted to know what was done with their prepuce after it got removed. In addition, there were also misconceptions on the motives of the sensitisers and the donors supporting male circumcision.”
To rebattle these myths, the youths shared various interventions that would help scale-up male circumcision among the youth.
“Parents should be sensitised on the importance of male circumcision so that they can take their children for circumcision as early as birth and massive sensitisation should be done in both rural and urban areas with young people as role models too,” urged Nkonde.
In addition to creating more centres for male circumcision in rural areas, the youths called on government to train more male doctors to conduct operations as most boys were shy to be cut by females.
UNICEF in collaboration with the Zambian government brought together 50 adolescents from 10 provinces for a Pre-HIV Prevention Convention workshop where they shared issues on HIV.
Nkonde also spoke on behalf of more than 15, 000 young U-Reporters aged between 10-24 years who participated in real-time via SMS from all the 10 provinces.
U-ReportZambia is an innovative SMS platform designed by the National AIDS Council and UNICEF to accelerate HIV response for adolescents and young people towards an HIV-free generation in Zambia.
It provides to adolescents and young people an opportunity to access comprehensive information on HIV and any other sexually transmitted infections by SMS. PYM