Social representations of male circumcision as prophylaxis against HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe

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Background The World Health Organisation recommended the scale-up of voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) as an additional HIV prevention method in 2007 and several countries with high HIV prevalence rates including Zimbabwe have since adopted the procedure. Since then researchers have been preoccupied with establishing the level of knowledge and acceptability of circumcision in communities that did not traditionally circumcise. Despite evidence to suggest that knowledge and acceptability of voluntary medical male circumcision is high, there is also emerging evidence that suggest that uptake of circumcision among men has been below expectations. The purpose of this study was thus to investigate people’s representations of male circumcision that may influence its uptake. Methods Data for this study was collected through focus group discussions with men and women aged between 18 and 49 years. This age group was selected because they are still very sexually active and are within the target population of the upscale of voluntary medical male circumcision programme. Women were included in the study because they would be directly involved in a decision to have their son(s) get circumcised for HIV prevention. The study was carried out in Harare, Zimbabwe. Obtained qualitative data was analysed using thematic content analysis. Results Results suggest that circumcision is perceived as an alien culture or something for “younger” men or “boys” who are not yet married. The findings also suggest that there are beliefs that circumcision maybe associated with satanic rituals. The issue of condom use after circumcision was also discussed and it was found that some men do not see the need for using condoms after getting circumcised. Conclusions There is an urgent need for the development of communications that directly address the misconceptions about voluntary medical male circumcision. There is need for communication that encourages circumcised men to continue using condoms.