Safe male circumcision in Botswana: Tension between traditional practices and biomedical marketing
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Botswana has been running Safe Male Circumcision (SMC) since 2009 and has not yet met its target. Donors like the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Africa Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnership (funded by the Gates Foundation) in collaboration with Botswana's Ministry of Health have invested much to encourage HIV-negative men to circumcise. Demand creation strategies make use of media and celebrities. The objective of this paper is to explore responses to SMC in relation to circumcision as part of traditional initiation practices. More specifically, we present the views of two communities in Botswana on SMC consultation processes, implementation procedures and campaign strategies. The methods used include participant observation, in-depth interviews with key stakeholders (donors, implementers and Ministry officials), community leaders and men in the community. We observe that consultation with traditional leaders was done in a seemingly superficial, non-participatory manner. While SMC implementers reported pressure to deliver numbers to the World Health Organization, traditional leaders promoted circumcision through their routine traditional initiation ceremonies at breaks of two-year intervals. There were conflicting views on public SMC demand creation campaigns in relation to the traditional secrecy of circumcision. In conclusion, initial cooperation of local chiefs and elders turned into resistance.