KISUMU, 6 January 2010 (PlusNews) - James Nango discovered he had
syphilis when he visited a clinic in his home town of Kisumu, in
western Kenya's Nyanza Province, in 2009, hoping to be
circumcised as a way of reducing his HIV risk.
"I used to have an itch on the tip of my penis but I did not know
what it was... I thought it was just some rash that would
disappear," the 26-year-old told IRIN/PlusNews. "I only knew it
was syphilis when the doctors at the clinic told me that I
couldn't be circumcised unless it was treated."
At the clinic, Nango also had his first HIV test; he was found
negative and following a successful course of treatment for his
sexually transmitted infection (STI), he was circumcised.
In November 2008, Kenya launched an ambitious national voluntary
male circumcision drive, which aims to have more than one million
men circumcised by 2013 The government's effort is largely
concentrated on Nyanza Province, where fewer than 50 percent of
men are circumcised and the HIV prevalence is 15.4 percent, about
twice the national average. A recent rapid results initiative saw
more than 35,000 Nyanza men circumcised within a six-week period.
The circumcision programme provides voluntary counselling and
testing for HIV and routine STI tests to all men who seek the
services. According to the government, more than 75,000 men have
been circumcised since its launch.
Charles Okal, provincial AIDS and sexually transmitted infections
control officer, said most people in Nyanza only sought treatment
for STIs in the advanced stages. Government figures put the
prevalence of genital herpes in Nyanza at 49 percent, and that of
syphilis at 2.4 percent.
"STIs are a risk factor in HIV infection and we are happy that
most of those seeking circumcision are treated when found to be
infected," said Nicholas Muraguri, director of the National AIDS
and Sexually transmitted infections Control Programme. "Medical
male circumcision also provides partial prevention of the HPV
virus, responsible for cervical cancer in women, which is a
leading killer of women with HIV, especially in rural areas."
According to Walter Obiero, a clinical manager at the Nyanza
Reproductive Health Society (NRHS) - one of the partners in
Kenya's Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision Consortium - the
programme's benefits extend well beyond the procedure.
"They get the benefit of being treated for these [sexually
transmitted] infections once they drop in at the clinics to
receive medical male circumcision," he said. "For married
couples, for instance, such a benefit is two-fold because once
these infections are detected early in a man, then they are
treated in time before the woman gets infected or if she too is
infected, then she gets to be treated as well."
The programme also involves sessions on condom awareness. "When
you teach people how to use condoms, give [them some] to take
home, then the message that male circumcision only works together
with other HIV prevention strategies is better reinforced,"