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Right to Care: Zulu prince backs medical male circumcision as tool against HIV

In his first public health event since his father’s death, Zulu prince Izinyane leSilo uNhlanganiso kaZwelithini (Nhlanganiso Zulu) called on the country’s men to take up health services, from fighting COVID-19 to increasing the take-up of medical male circumcision (MMC) as a powerful tool in the fight against HIV.

Addressing a gathering in Vosloorus, outside Johannesburg on Saturday (6 November) that included traditional leaders from across Gauteng, Prince Nhlanganiso Zulu said, “My father, his Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini ka Bhekuzulu, was a fierce guardian of traditions and culture and was unafraid to break tradition when needed.”

Medical male circumcision has been a core component of South Africa’s HIV prevention strategy since 2010, preventing new HIV infections and saving lives. Zulu added that, “My father helped end the taboo related to male circumcision in his bid to reduce HIV infection rates.

“I call on all men to undergo a medical circumcision. Getting circumcised is the right thing to do for your health and the health of your partner. Men tend to avoid health facilities, but I encourage men to step forward to set a new example for their sons, because avoidance can have dire consequences.”

The prince also led men in signing a GBV pledge. He spoke out strongly against gender-based violence (GBV): “I commit to playing my part in ending GBV by being a positive role model, a mentor, and not allowing any form of violence to take place without doing something about it. I commit to protecting and living according to the high values that I have set for myself and my fellow men. I commit to being part of the change. I say enough is enough!”

Zulu is partnering with NGOs Right to Care, Population Services International and Jhpiego to implement his men’s health Isibaya Samadoda movement. Isibaya Samadoda encourages men to focus on their physical and emotional wellness coupled with their cultural identity. All three organisations support the Health Department with the country’s circumcision programme and aim to perform more than 310,000 medical male circumcisions in the 12 months.

Medical male circumcision project director at Right to Care Dr Khumbulani Moyo explained: “Like many healthcare interventions, medical male circumcision has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. To increase the uptake of healthcare services like MMC, we will take healthcare to men and ensure they can access services in a confidential setting. It also means close collaboration between the traditional and healthcare sectors to ensure each community’s unique context is taken into account.”

The event was attended by Deputy Minister of Health Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo and included COVID-19 vaccination, men’s dialogue sessions, circumcision services, HIV testing and screening for prostate cancer, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), hypertension and diabetes.

Dhlomo said: “The health benefits associated with medical male circumcision include reduced risks of contracting HIV and some STIs, regardless of your HIV status. Circumcision also helps prevent penile cancer in men and cervical cancer in their female partners.”

Zulu said his father had used traditional cultural platforms to raise awareness of HIV/Aids and address social issues ,including gender-based violence. “More recently he had implored politicians and citizens to unite against COVID-19 as ‘our common enemy’ and had been vocal about the widespread disregard for regulations around the pandemic. It is therefore particularly cruel that he left us because of COVID-19 complications, given how cautious he was to avoid the virus and how he encouraged others to do the same. His Majesty was one of South Africa’s most revered leaders. His reign will continue to guide us for many years,” he added.

Issued by Right to Care

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