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Page last updated at 16:44 GMT, Friday, 18 July 2008 17:44 UK

Kenyans reject circumcision plan

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Elders from Kenya's Luo community in western Kenya have refused to endorse a plan to promote male circumcision to curb the spread of HIV/Aids.

The Luo Council of Elders says it cannot sanction circumcision, as it is against the community's culture.

A ministry of health campaign is trying to encourage more men to be circumcised by offering free circumcision services in Nyanza Province.

Researchers say circumcision reduces the risk of HIV infection among men.

Traditionally, the Luo community does not practise circumcision, unlike some other Kenyan communities.

About 2.5 million of 32 million Kenyans are currently living with HIV/Aids.

A high prevalence of HIV/Aids has been recorded among the Luo community and experts blame this on cultural practices, such as the practice of wife inheritance.

According to the custom, a widow is remarried by a brother-in-law or a suitor chosen by village elders.

Policy

The BBC's Muliro Telewa in Kisumu says the elders are not convinced that circumcision lowers the risk of infection.

The elders are afraid that some men will think that being circumcised is an alternative to using condoms, which will put them at a higher risk of infection, our correspondent says.

But individual members of the community who want to be circumcised are free to do so, the council says.

The Luo Council of Elders is an advisory body whose decisions highly influence the community's beliefs and practices.

The elders say they welcome any measures which will lower the prevalence of HIV/Aids, but are opposed to a campaign to encourage the acceptance of circumcision by the community.

They say the proposal should not be included in the government's policy on HIV/Aids.

The Luo community is mainly found in Kenya's Nyanza and Western Provinces and is Kenya's third largest community.

Studies have suggested that circumcision lowers the risk for men of contracting HIV and passing it on to women, and could be used as a weapon in the fight against the spread of HIV/Aids.


SEE ALSO
Circumcision diary
30 Nov 07 |  Africa
Kenya struggles to combat HIV
31 May 06 |  Health
Mass circumcision to fight Aids
07 Jun 07 |  Africa

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