Background: Early infant male circumcision (EIMC) is simpler, safer and more cost-effective than adult circumcision. In sub-Saharan Africa, there are concerns about acceptability of EIMC which could affect uptake. In 2009 a quantitative survey of 2,746 rural Zimbabweans (aged 18-44) indicated that 60% of women and 58% of men would be willing to have their newborn son circumcised. Willingness was associated with knowledge of HIV and male circumcision. This qualitative study was conducted to better understand this issue.
Methods: In 2010, 24 group discussions were held across Zimbabwe with participants from seven ethnic groups. Additionally, key informant interviews were held with private paediatricians who offer EIMC (n = 2) plus one traditional leader. Discussions were audio-recorded, transcribed, translated into English (where necessary), coded using NVivo 8 and analysed using grounded theory principles.
Results: Knowledge of the procedure was poor. Despite this, acceptability of EIMC was high among parents from most ethnic groups. Discussions suggested that fathers would make the ultimate decision regarding EIMC although mothers and extended family can have (often covert) influence. Participants' concerns centred on: safety, motive behind free service provision plus handling and disposal of the discarded foreskin. Older men from the dominant traditionally circumcising population strongly opposed EIMC, arguing that it separates circumcision from adolescent initiation, as well as allowing women (mothers) to nurse the wound, considered taboo.
Conclusions: EIMC is likely to be an acceptable HIV prevention intervention for most populations in Zimbabwe, if barriers to uptake are appropriately addressed and fathers are specifically targeted by the programme.