The crowd of men at the Bisate Dispensary, in Kinigi Sector, Musanze District in the Northern Province waiting to get circumcised is proof that wrong perceptions of the practice are ending.
On March 2, over 30 men waited to be circumcised inside the walls of Bisate Dispensary. They are responding to the concerted campaign urging young men, in particular, to get circumcised in order to reduce chances of contracting HIV/Aids and other Sexual Transmitted Diseases (STDs).
Circumcision is the surgical removal of some, or the entire foreskin (prepuse) from a man’s penis.
The crowded room was filled with excited and nervous chatter about circumcision. The men were more worried about their turn to get circumcised than the knife and temporary pain that comes with it.
Some admitted they were scared.
“I was not scared before I came but when I see knives and scissors I tremble,” said David Murisa, a 15-year-old student “But there is nothing I can do - I have to be a man.”
Local farmer Theoneste Nsengiyumva was one of 30 men that got circumcised that day. He was glad to have the operation.
“I am happy to finally get circumcised. I will be shielded from HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases,” he said.
The overwhelming number of people now turning up for the operation has forced dispensaries and clinics to circumcise daily.
Dr. Olivier Murara, Head of the circumcision campaign in Musanze district, says circumcision will take place daily as opposed to the previous two days a week.
“Our target is to circumcise over 1500 men in the district and, so far, 685 are circumcised; next week we shall launch a daily circumcision campaign to meet our target,” Murara said.
Though more men are interested in the operation, others criticize the practice based on their historical and traditional beliefs.
“Traditionally, circumcision is regarded as a Muslim practice and, in our clan, nobody has ever been circumcised,” said Joseph Iyamuremye, a local businessman. “I don’t really know where that research came from that if someone is circumcised they have less chances of contracting HIV/AIDS.”
“I need somebody to clearly explain to me that, in Arab countries where almost everybody is circumcised, there is no HIV/AIDS, and if I get that proof, I will get circumcised,” Iyamuremye argues.
Iyamuremye is a resident of Cyanika village in Kinoni Sector, near the Uganda-Rwanda boarder in Burera district where the campaign has not taken root.
Civil Society organizations like Association de Bien Etre Sociales (ABES) are mounting campaign efforts in Burera district to increase public awareness.
According to Simon Ruhesha, Director of ABES, 10 community health workers were trained to sensitize the public.
“We intend to intervene through mobilizing and sensitizing local people by using the door-to-door and peer-to-peer method,” Ruhesha said.
At the Bisate Dispensary, before the circumcision operation is carried out, all ‘patients’ are educated about the significance of circumcision.
It is only done after voluntary consent—no one is forced to face the knife.
Metallic clatter is heard in the room; men climb onto dispensary beds and wait for their turn. Outside the operation room, a few women lingered; some escorted their husbands and waited with anxiety.
Violette Nyirahonora said she was glad her husband was getting circumcised.
“I was told that circumcision prevents HIV/AIDS and I have come to witness my husband’s circumcision Nyirahonora said.
The ages of those circumcised at Bisate Dispensary ranged from 15 to 40 years.