by Dr Justin K. Nyatondo
Have you been considering getting circumcised? Have you been waiting for the right time? Maybe you have concerns about the procedure or you have heard things that make you wonder if this is the right thing for you. An old African proverb says, ‘The right time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now!’ The right time to prepare for you and your family’s healthy future is now.
Evidence-based studies have shown that circumcision reduces men’s chances of getting HIV by up to 60 percent. This is probably one of those few times in history when a simple surgical procedure has been used to prevent an infectious condition, HIV infection in this case.
There are other benefits too and these include the facts that circumcised men are at lower risk of getting certain other sexually transmitted infections like syphilis, have lower risk of cancer of the penis; that they find it easier to maintain cleanliness of the penis.
In addition, circumcision reduces the risk of urinary tract infections in young boys and women whose partners are circumcised are at a lower risk of cervical cancer.
However, for women, having a circumcised partner does not directly reduce her risk of HIV so it is important to still use condoms for her health as well as for the man’s.
Yet despite the many proven benefits, a number of fears and myths continue to surround male circumcision.
One of the myths is that one has to wait until winter to have surgery when healing is better. However the fact is that there is no compelling scientific basis for this. Healing is fine in any season. Because of its health benefits, male circumcision is increasingly offered in public and private health facilities in Namibia, all year round.
Another myth is that circumcision has to be done in the hospital under general anaesthesia when the patient is put to sleep during surgery. The fact is that the procedure can be performed in your doctor’s rooms under local anaesthetic because only the operation area is rendered numb during operation.
The other myth is that the procedure is going to cost too much money, while the fact is that medical male circumcision is now covered by your medical aid.
Another myth is that one has to take several weeks off fromwork to recover from surgery. However, the fact is that the doctor will normally recommend resting for two days after the procedure and then you can return to work.
So please grab your next chance and talk to your doctor. It will also be a good opportunity for your provider to address any concerns you may have about your sexual health. The best time is now.
Forthcoming articles will shed more light on other health issues affecting you and your family, so stay tuned.
• Dr Justin K. Nyatondo (MBChB, MPH, DipHivMan) is based in Windhoek and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.