Making the Cut: Circumcision Becomes a Status Symbol in Rwanda

rwanda circumcision


Thanks to Rwanda’s Ministry of Health’s HIV/AIDS prevention program, circumcision is in high demand among the country’s males. Unfortunately, due to a lack of doctors, it has become difficult to meet the demands for this exclusive procedure, turning circumcision into a symbol of social status, particularly among high school boys.   


BUGESERA – In Rwanda, circumcision has become trendy.

More and more young men have begun to have the procedure performed to limit the risks of HIV infection. The Ministry of Health launched its free male circumcision program in 2011, with a goal of medically circumcising 50% of men in two years as part of its HIV/AIDS prevention program.

Unfortunately there have been two drawbacks to this program. First, there is so much demand, that the Ministry of Health has been overwhelmed. In Rwanda, there are only two doctors for every 100,000 people. Second, it’s becoming apparent that many men do not know that being circumcised may only limit, not eliminate the risk, of being infected.

Prompted by the health and sex-related campaign, circumcision has also taken on a social appeal and status symbol. “We are always on the look-out, listening to the radio so we don’t miss announcements from the Rilima district board about the next circumcision campaign,” says Kamanzi, a student from the Rilima school, in the eastern Rwandese town of Bugesera.  …Continue Reading

Niki De Witt headshot 150x150 In Wuhan, China a ABOUT THE CURATOR

Niki is currently exploring Asia while working on a children’s book series about travel. As a child, she traveled and moved often for her parents’ jobs. As a result of this, she has always felt most at home when she’s off and away. She is interested in international films, working on building an impressive tea collection, and can often be found with her camera in hand. You can have a look-see at her blog and follow her on Twitter @nikidding.

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  • Tanya

    Interesting, I don’t see the point of it honestly! Its just painful and unneeded.

  • Hugh

    Rwanda is one of the 10 out of 18 countries for which USAID has figures, where more of the CIRCUMCISED men (2.5 percent) have HIV than than non-circumcised (2.2 percent). With doctors in such short supply, they could be doing something much more useful.

  • Jason

    Niki, there is a big difference between voluntary and involuntary circumcision. An American woman can go have her labia cut surgically because she thinks it looks sexier. To do the same to an infant girl is wrong we can all agree. Likewise a grown man can have his foreskin cut off but to do the same to an infant boy is wrong.

  • Ron Low

    This is just INSANE. In Rwanda today it is the CIRCUMCISED who have markedly higher HIV prevelance.

    Most of the US men who have died of AIDS were circumcised at birth. The US has three times the HIV incidence seen in Europe, where circumcision is rare. In 2009 Wawer and Gray reported to the WHO that the Ugandan men they circumcised infected their female partners 50% MORE often with deadly HIV than the men they left intact.

    Circumcision is not the way to thwart AIDS.