PloS one 2017 11 0812(11) e0187577 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0187577
Efforts to stem the spread of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in Papua New Guinea (PNG) are hampered by multiple interrelated factors including limited health services, extreme diversities in culture and language and highly prevalent gender inequity, domestic violence and poverty. In the rural district of Yangoru-Saussia, a revival of previously ceased male initiation ceremonies (MICs) is being considered for a comprehensive approach to HIV prevention. In this study, we explore the local acceptability of this undertaking including replacing traditional penile cutting practices with medical male circumcision (MMC).
A multi-method study comprising three phases. Phase one, focus group discussions with male elders to explore locally appropriate approaches to HIV prevention; Phase two, interviews and a cross-sectional survey with community men and women to assess views on MICs that include MMC for HIV prevention; Phase three, interviews with cultural leaders and a cross sectional survey to assess the acceptability of replacing traditional penile bleeding with MMC.
Cultural leaders expressed that re-establishing MICs was locally appropriate for HIV prevention given the focus on character building and cultural preservation. Most surveyed participants (81.5%) supported re-establishing MICs and 92.2% supported adapting MICs with MMC. Changes to penile bleeding emerged as a contentious and contested issue given its cultural significance in symbolizing initiates’ transition from childhood to adulthood. Participants were concerned about potential clash with modern education, introduced religious beliefs and limited government support in leadership and funding.
Most people in this study in Yangoru-Saussia support re-establishing MICs and replacing traditional penile bleeding with MMC. This culturally-sensitive alignment of MMC (and HIV prevention) with revived MICs responds to a national health priority in PNG and acts as an example of providing culturally-sensitive male circumcision for HIV prevention recommended by WHO/UNAIDS. However, the implementation of this undertaking will require considerable effort, especially when modern pursuits in education and religion must be factored and when there is expectation for local authorities to lead and provide funding.