Perceptions of HIV and Safe Male Circumcision in high HIV prevalence fishing communities on Lake Victoria, Uganda
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Background: In 2010, the Uganda Ministry of Health introduced its Safe Male Circumcision (SMC) strategy for HIV prevention with the goal of providing 4.2 million voluntary medical circumcisions by 2015. Fishing communities, where HIV prevalence is approximately 3-5 times higher than the national average, have been identified as a key population needing targeted HIV prevention services by the National HIV Prevention Strategy. This study aimed to understand perceptions of HIV and identify potential barriers and facilitators to SMC in fishing communities along Lake Victoria. Methods: We conducted 8 focus group discussions, stratified by sex and age, with 67 purposefully sampled participants in 4 communities in Kalangala District, Uganda. Results: There was universal knowledge of the availability of SMC services, but males reported higher uptake in the community than females. Improved hygiene, disease prevention, and improved sexual performance and desirability were reported facilitators. Barriers included a perceived increase in SMC recipients’ physiological libido, post-surgical abstinence, lost income due to missed employment during convalescence, and lengthier recovery due to occupational hazards. Both males and females reported concerns about spousal fidelity during post-SMC abstinence. Reported misconceptions and community-held cultural beliefs include fear that foreskins are sold after their removal, the belief that a SMC recipient’s first sexual partner after the procedure should not be his spouse, and the belief that vaginal fluids aid circumcision wound healing. Conclusions: Previous outreach and sensitization efforts have effectively reached these remote communities, where availability and health benefits of SMC are widely understood. However, community-specific intervention strategies are needed to address the barriers identified in this study. We recommend the development of targeted counseling, outreach, and communication strategies to address barriers, misconceptions, and community-held beliefs. Interventions should also incorporate female partners into the SMC decision-making process and develop compensation strategies to address lost income during SMC convalescence.
- Global health