Cultural competence: a framework for promoting voluntary medical male circumcision among VaRemba communities in Zimbabwe

Afr J AIDS Res. 2017 Jul;16(2):165-173. doi: 10.2989/16085906.2017.1337040. Epub 2017 Jul 17.


Almost a decade after the formal introduction of voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) as an important technology for HIV prevention, its implementation is still fraught with acceptability challenges. This is especially true among ethnic groups where male circumcision is conducted as a rite of passage into adulthood. In this article we question why VMMC is being met with resistance despite widespread awareness of its promise to reduce HIV incidence in a culturally circumcising community in Zimbabwe. In-depth and key informant interviews were conducted with selected VaRemba initiation graduates and surgeons respectively in Mposi area in Mberengwa to explore why VMMC has not been readily accepted in their community. Findings suggest that male circumcision among VaRemba is not only the removal of prepuce but comprises a secretive and rich curriculum rooted in their culture and identity. Such a conceptualisation renders some social and programmatic impediments for VMMC uptake. To scale up VMMC uptake among VaRemba, we argue for a reorganisation and adaptation of VMMC services in a culturally competent way that accounts for local conceptions of circumcision and respect for the cultural beliefs and practices of VaRemba communities.

Keywords: Mberengwa; VMMC acceptance; meanings of circumcision; reorganizing VMMC services.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Circumcision, Male / psychology*
  • Cultural Competency*
  • Culture
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Young Adult
  • Zimbabwe