“They think that Lozi men cannot get circumcised because it is not part of our tradition. But we have come to show them that we are not scared to be circumcised” explains Likonge Mwila a resident of Lifuna Village in Kalabo one of the 33 zones under the Community Compact project in Western Province, Zambia. In March this year, Likonge and over 300 other men from Lifuna and surrounding zones were circumcised at Lifuna Primary School as part of a mass campaign and sensitization drive for medical male circumcision (MC) by Community Compact volunteers.
Medical MC is promoted as an integral part of HIV prevention for men as it reduces the risk of heterosexually-acquired HIV infection by approximately 60 percent. MC also lowers the risk of getting other sexually transmitted infections, penile cancer, and infant urinary tract infection. When a man is circumcised, he also reduces the risk of his female partner getting cancer of the cervix through prevention of transmission of the Human Papilloma Virus.
Community COMPACT – a PEPFAR/CDC-funded programme led by CIDRZ – is in a unique position to increase the coverage and quality of MC because of its strong links with the community, and its credibility, infrastructure and networks. COMPACT volunteers come from within the communities that they serve; they are recognized sources of information on HIV prevention, care and treatment.
Noting that each community is different and intervention strategies must be customized to meet local needs COMPACT volunteers pay careful attention to the values and norms of a community where adolescent boys and men are not usually circumcised. Despite this potential obstacle, COMPACT volunteers were able to effectively convey the importance of medical MC as a method of HIV prevention for men.
Along with mass campaigns, COMPACT volunteers continue to emphasize the importance of medical MC during general sensitization activities. In a community where the majority of men have little or no contact with health services, the programme has had a positive effect on the uptake of services. “We are seeing a lot more men now,” says Yuka Mission Hospital MC Coordinator, Mr. Siyanga. “95 percent of the men who come for MC say they have been sensitized and referred by a CIDRZ COMPACT volunteer. This is a big improvement.”
During this March 2014 campaign, COMPACT volunteers worked with the Ministry of Health, Churches Health Association of Zambia and JHPIEGO, and received support from the District Commissioner of Kalabo, Mrs. Masela Chinyama.