Incorporating Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision Into Traditional Circumcision Contexts: Experiences of a Local Consortium in Zimbabwe Collaborating With an Ethnic Group

Glob Health Sci Pract. 2019 Mar 29;7(1):138-146. doi: 10.9745/GHSP-D-18-00352. Print 2019 Mar 22.


Employing voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) within traditional settings may increase patient safety and help scale up male circumcision efforts in sub-Saharan Africa. In Zimbabwe, the VaRemba are among the few ethnic groups that practice traditional male circumcision, often in suboptimal hygienic environments. ZAZIC, a local consortium, and the Zimbabwe Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) established a successful, culturally sensitive partnership with the VaRemba to provide safe, standardized male circumcision procedures and reduce adverse events (AEs) during traditional male circumcision initiation camps. The foundation for the VaRemba Camp Collaborative (VCC) was established over a 4-year period, between 2013 and 2017, with support from a wide group of stakeholders. Initially, ZAZIC supported VaRemba traditional male circumcisions by providing key commodities and transport to help ensure patient safety. Subsequently, 2 male VaRemba nurses were trained in VMMC according to national MoHCC guidelines to enable medical male circumcision within the camp. To increase awareness and uptake of VMMC at the upcoming August-September 2017 camp, ZAZIC then worked closely with a trained team of circumcised VaRemba men to create demand for VMMC. Non-VaRemba ZAZIC doctors were granted permission by VaRemba leaders to provide oversight of VMMC procedures and postoperative treatment for all moderate and severe AEs within the camp setting. Of 672 male camp residents ages 10 and older, 657 (98%) chose VMMC. Only 3 (0.5%) moderate infections occurred among VMMC clients; all were promptly treated and healed well. Although the successful collaboration required many years of investment to build trust with community leaders and members, it ultimately resulted in a successful model that paired traditional circumcision practices with modern VMMC, suggesting potential for replicability in other similar sub-Saharan African communities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Circumcision, Male / adverse effects
  • Circumcision, Male / ethnology*
  • Community Participation*
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Culture*
  • Ethnic Groups*
  • Health Services, Indigenous*
  • Humans
  • Infections / etiology
  • Infections / therapy
  • Leadership
  • Male
  • Medicine, African Traditional*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurses, Male
  • Safety
  • Social Marketing
  • Stakeholder Participation
  • Trust
  • Voluntary Programs*
  • Young Adult
  • Zimbabwe