Spurred on by reports of a significant increase in HIV infections among married couples, health officials want to involve women in the drive to have more Kenyan men undergo circumcision.
Speaking at the launch of the voluntary male circumcision programme at Panafric Hotel, Nairobi on Monday, Public Health and Sanitation assistant minister James Gesami said the ministry would provide free counselling for couples on the benefits of male circumcision.
Counselling will be part of Government’s strategy to promote the male cut in Kenya, partly funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the US Government.
This follows recent release of data from the Kenya Aids Indicator Survey that shows two-thirds of Kenyan adults infected with HIV are legally married or cohabiting and that in one of every 10 marital unions, at least one partner is living with HIV, forming what doctors call ‘discordant couples’.
Dr Peter Cherutich, head of the national task force on circumcision, said counselling is critical for both married and unmarried couples.
“There are cases where the husband sneaks out for circumcision and the wife interprets that to mean that he is preparing to become promiscuous, or that it will have an impact on their sexual relations... Women have to be involved for the full benefits to be felt,” Dr Cherutich said.
He said the one-month healing period may also create problems as women may not understand the need for prolonged abstention from sex.
Parents will also be advised on how to counsel their sons facing “the cut.”
Research has also shown that the male cut markedly reduces chances of infection with the human papilloma virus that causes genital warts and cervical cancer — the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Kenya — by between 60 and 70 per cent.
It also reduces chances of infection with venereal diseases.
Hospitals in Nyanza have recorded a surge in people seeking the services at public hospitals since circumcision was endorsed by the area’s politicians.
But officials say hospitals first must be accredited to offer the services.
The task force has already developed a manual and guidelines for circumcision and come up with guidelines on it.