Why can’t Namibia use the Malawian ‘prophet’ Shepherd Bushiri to motivate men to undergo voluntary circumcision? Given the chance, it seems the Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Bernard Haufiku, wouldn’t mind using Bushiri as the drawcard for voluntary circumcision.
Haufiku is advocating that Namibia use unorthodox methods to reach and convince Namibian men to go for voluntary circumcision as part of the fight against HIV/AIDS. This is because Namibia is failing to reach its target of circumcising 34 000 men by 2017.
“Recently a young prophet visited Namibia and drew a crowd as big as that of our Independence Day in 1990 – so also the recently played Cosafa Castle Cup match between Namibia and Botswana. Instead of criticizing the prophet we could have used him to spread the message of circumcision. He has the followers – so why not make use of him to spread the message and encourage our males to get circumcised,” said Haufiku, without mentioning Bushiri’s name. Haufiku spoke at the opening of the voluntary medical male circumcision division at the Swakopmund State Hospital last Friday.
Bushiri visited Namibia in February this year and filled the Sam Nujoma Stadium in Windhoek – with more than 20 000 people estimated to have braved the rain to attend his crusade. His visit was heavily criticized by Namibian clergymen for making a fortune from vulnerable and desperate people. Reports had it that millions of dollars were pledged to him at a gala dinner in the capital.
According to Haufiku such crowd-pulling events could have been used to distribute pre-packed simple messages to encourage male circumcision. Haufiku said that it is good that Namibia is rolling out the programme but needs to upgrade the campaign to meet set targets.
He also stressed the importance of other strategies such as providing condoms in prisons and the provision of pre-exposure prophylaxis.
“We have all the strategies on paper – however the challenge is to put them into practice,” he said.
Haufiku encouraged men to go for circumcision and women to encourage their partners to do so, emphasising that the benefits include reducing the possibility of contracting HIV by 60 percent and other sexually transmitted infections as well. It also helps in the maintenance of penile hygiene and the reduction of cervical cancer in women.
Male circumcision is just one of the many methods that government has embarked upon to reduce HIV. The World Health Organisation believes that circumcision reduces a man’s chances of getting infected with HIV by 60 percent.