No Circ, No Sex: Women withhold sex, sending men to get circumcised first

October 28, 2015

It’s been documented that women generally have better health service seeking behaviors than men. It’s therefore not surprising that a new study by Jhpiego and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare on the role of women in uptake of VMMC in the Njombe and Tabora regions of Tanzania has revealed that women there are playing a significant role in influencing males in uptake of voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) for HIV prevention.

In this study, whose results have recently been published in PLoS One, participants reported that mothers and female partners influence boys’ and men’s decisions to seek VMMC. The women use both direct and indirect means to achieve this – from persuasive discussions, pressuring friends, sons, siblings or partners to denying partners sex.

This study confirms what’s been known but has not been adequately documented. As such, many programs in the different VMMC priority countries can take advantage of the influence that women have on the males in their lives to find ways to meaningfully engage them so as to help scale up roll out of services. Also, messaging on benefits of VMMC to women should be part of these conversations to ensure that women and men know that while VMMC is an intervention for men, its benefits go to women as well, at the individual and community levels.

For additional background about the benefits VMMC can have for women’s health as well as ways women can advocate and support the implementation of this HIV prevention method, check out Making Male Circumcision Work for Women, which AVAC and partners published in 2010.