“What do You Mean I’ve Got to Wait for Six Weeks?!” Understanding the Sexual Behaviour of Men and Their Female Partners after Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision in the Western Cape

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ABSTRACT:

Background Several studies have shown that voluntary male medical circumcision (VMMC) reduces the incidence of the Type-1 human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in heterosexual men by up to 60%. However, there is an increased risk of transmission of STIs, including HIV, in the immediate post-operative period after receiving VMMC. This study is to understand sexual practices of couples in the post-operative period in a Coloured population in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. Methods Coloured Males who had undergone VMMC in the previous six months in the Cape Town area and their partners participated in eight single-gender focus group discussions. The groups explored why the men decided to undergo VMMC, what kind of counselling they received, and how they experienced the 6-week post-operative period, including sexually. Results The primary motivation to VMMC uptake included religious injunction and hygiene reasons and protection against sexually transmitted infections not necessarily HIV. There was some exploration of alternative sexual practices. During the period immediately post operation the respondents spoke of pain and fear of any sexual arousal, but towards the end of the six week period, sexual desire returned. Both men and women felt that sex was important to maintain the relationship. Gaps were identified in the pre- and post-MC procedure counselling. Conclusions There is a real risk that men in this population may begin sex before complete healing has occurred. VMMC counselling to encourage men to stay sexually safe in the wound-healing period, needs to take into account the real-life factors of the circumcised men. It is essential from a public health, and gender perspective that effective counselling strategies for the VMMC post-operative period, and the longer term, are developed and tested.