Tsungai Chekerwa-Machokoto, Opinion
CIRCUMCISION is an interesting topic and a very important one in this day of HIV and Aids.
Some people say they contracted HIV after they were circumcised because they were told that the risk of contracting it was lowered significantly by circumcision. Some argue against the benefits, saying they have lived their lives without being circumcised prompting the following questions: What is circumcision? When should it be done? How it is done? Is it necessary?
Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin, the tissue covering the head (glans) of the penis. It is an ancient practice that has its origin in religious rites. Today, many parents have their sons circumcised for religious or other reasons. Because of its health benefits, circumcision is strongly advised.
In Jewish practice, circumcision is performed on the eighth day according to Old Testament stipulations. The procedure becomes more complicated and riskier in older babies, children, and men. In some cultures, it is done to signify a boy becoming a man. This is common in some South African cultures.
This, however, has caused some serious health risks as there is no sterilisation that takes place and so the boys are exposed to diseases. But that’s a discussion for another day.
During a circumcision, the foreskin is freed from the head of the penis, and the excess foreskin is clipped off. If done in the newborn period, the procedure takes about five to 10 minutes. Adult circumcision takes about one hour. The circumcision generally heals in five to seven days.
Now the question of its necessity. The use of circumcision for medical or health reasons is an issue that continues to be debated. The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) found that the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, but the benefits are not great enough to recommend universal newborn circumcision. The procedure may be recommended in older boys and men to treat phimosis (the inability to retract the foreskin) or to treat an infection of the penis.
Parents should talk with their doctor about the benefits and risks of the procedure before making a decision regarding circumcision of a male child. Other factors, such as your culture, religion, and personal preference, will also be involved in your decision.
There is some evidence that circumcision has health benefits, including a decreased risk of urinary tract infections, a reduced risk of some sexually transmitted diseases in men, protection against penile cancer and a reduced risk of cervical cancer in female sex partners.
Also, circumcision is key in the prevention of balanitis (inflamation of the glans) and balanoposthitis (inflammation of the glans and foreskin) as well as the prevention of phimosis (the inability to retract the foreskin) and paraphimosis (the inability to return the foreskin to its original location). Circumcision also makes it easier to keep the end of the penis clean.
Like any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with circumcision. However, this risk is low. Problems associated with circumcision include pain, risk of bleeding and infection at the site of the circumcision, irritation of the glans, increased risk of meatitis (inflammation of the opening of the penis) and finally risk of injury to the penis.
I would conclude by suggesting that the benefits outweigh the risks in my opinion and it would be really wise to do it earlier rather than later because of the issues associated with pain and health risks.
Men who also have thought that circumcision translates to immunity against HIV have had a rude awakening. Being circumcised is not a passport to promiscuous behaviour because you can still get HIV without the foreskin. I just hope that people can act responsibly and take care of their health so they can live longer, happier lives.
Tsungai Chekerwa-Machokoto can be reached on [email protected]