Amidst all the fevered talk of scaling up medical circumcision at this year’s International AIDS Conference, there were quieter rumblings about the surgical procedure’s oft-maligned older brother, traditional circumcision. Fred Sawe of the Kenya Medical Research Institute presented on an intervention in Kenya’s Rift Valley, in which community IPC agents were trained to promote SRH among young men during the annual circumcision season. Mogomotsi “Supreme” Mfalapitsa of EngenderHealth South Africa argued the need for SRH “curricula” for initiation “schools,” and participants at MC sessions proposed programmatic approaches ranging from training of clinicians moonlighting as traditional circumcisers to the establishment of charters for initiation schools. Participants in several MC sessions I attended also expressed broad support for the idea of national and sub-national consultation with local stakeholders (including both men and women), as well as increased focus on CT services for men.
Recent dialogue around circumcision (in both its traditional and medical forms) provides a valuable opportunity to get serious about improving men’s SRH. How to address traditional circumcision in the context of MC programs remains a difficult question - but maybe we should also be asking ourselves how we can leverage traditional coming of age rites to improve access to services and SRH information among young men. Too often, we see MC and traditional circumcision framed in opposition – an either/or of male well-being. Shouldn’t we be grateful that male SRH and service use are on the global agenda, and take any opportunity we can to improve them?