A few times a day, Mr. Dass or one of his drivers drives a taxi into the Mitchell’s Plain taxi rank, waits his turn in line and leaves with a minibus full of people going about their daily lives. What makes his routine different is that his taxi is an ambassador for Sonke’s One Man Can campaign for Medical Male Circumcision (MMC) for HIV prevention. I went to visit Mr. Dass, the owner of the taxi with Mzamo Sidelo, a Sonke One Man Can Trainer based in Cape Town.
We I went to scope out the physical and social terrain that this taxi would cover, and hear a few local opinions on MMC. However, the rank was almost deserted of passengers at 10.30AM, after the morning rush and before schools broke up in the afternoon. It started to rain so we stood under the shelter and ended up talking to some of the few people hanging around the rank – a small group of men and one boy.
When we first asked what their thoughts were on MMC, they mostly just laughed nervously – and a little aggressively. One man chased another around the taxi threatening to “do it [circumcision] for you myself,” – by removing his foreskin in the taxi door!
The topic brought out a kind of silliness in them, who, in the time we were there, playfully chased one another with batons and knives.
Mzamo and I still wanted to hear some real opinions, though, and pressed on with other questions to see if the messaging was effective and clear.
“How much protection do you have against HIV if you are fully circumcised?” I asked of a talkative, engaged and confident young man. “Um… 60%,” he said, without even looking at the taxi. After some more conversation, I realised that although he ‘played dumb’ when talking with the other men, he actually knew a lot about HIV and preventing infection. I wondered why he did not share this information when talking with the others. I asked the boy, probably about sixteen years old, the same question. He answered correctly after looking at the sign. (My thought: It works!)
When we asked Mr. Dass if people talk about circumcision in and around his taxi, he replied hesitantly. “Well, yes, people talk.
But a lot of people joke about it and don’t take it seriously. But some do. It definitely starts conversation!”
And that’s the goal – for now. To introduce the idea and act of medical circumcision into the public sphere and raise awareness of its benefits. This kind of awareness raising is merely one step in a process of change, a process that we hope individuals will go through and eventually make the decision to get circumcised, for their own health and for a wide range of benefits for their partner.