In the field of sexual health, harm reduction is often closely associated with the use of recreational drugs. We certainly can’t stop people from using street drugs and instead of moralising about it and making drug users feel alienated, we need to implement programmes designed to mitigate the harm associated with this behaviour. Such harm reduction programmes are certainly not new – their importance is recognised by international bodies such as the WHO, UNAIDS and USAID – but they’re certainly new to South Africa. Health4Men, a project of the Anova Health Institute, already at the forefront of providing innovative free sexual health services for gay and bisexual men, has initiated an innovative harm reduction programme in Cape Town.
I had inherited some money after two of my grandparents had died, and I decided to use it for the procedure. As I wanted to do it properly, I asked around and got the number of a reputable urologist in Cape Town. His receptionist told me that he was fully booked until the end of the year, but recommended another urologist who shared the premises. He was suspiciously available for the whole of the following week. I should have seen the red flag.
I met him, we seemed to be on the same page, and he appeared decent enough, so I felt no reservations about him doing renovations on my manhood. I had requested that he not make the procedure too “tight”, and that he leave me some “give”, because I had heard (from a good friend) that it was better that way. “No problem”, he replied, and in a flash I was in the hospital to become a cabriolet model.
When I came to I was still numb but able to walk out of the surgery. As I gathered my things and settled the R12 000.00 bill, the urologist told me that I had provided him and the nurses with much entertainment, after he had given me a Dormicum injection. Apparently I had had a long conversation with them all through the procedure, and spoken a lot of “nonsense”. I was shocked that he had not given me general anesthetic, but he assured me that Dormicum was a better option, because I wouldn’t remember anything afterwards. This still disturbs me.
Changing my bandages later on, I discovered – to my horror – that he had butchered me. I looked as though I had been stitched together by someone with Parkinsons. I was a mess, but there was no time to do anything about it, as I was to begin rehearsals for a big musical in two weeks time, which required a lot of dancing. I needed to heal – quickly. Show must go on.
Months later, I still had Frankenstein’s crotch, and after the run of the musical ended, I sank into a terrible depression, overcome with shame and humiliation. Stitches that were supposed to dissolve did not, and scar tissue and slap-dash surgery had left me disfigured. I had told no one, and soon I was as sick as a dog. I had glandular fever plus another opportunistic virus (ironically called Coxsackie virus), and a mysterious cough that would not go away. My heart and immune system were broken.
My parents got concerned and insisted I come home to the farm, so off I went. Not with my tail between my legs, but something altogether more pathetic.
Eventually I ended up at a doctor in Mafikeng, who medicated my illnesses, and at the last minute, I decided to show him my pitiful penis. Deadpan, he muttered “bliksem!”, and I knew then that I had to tell my folks.
Despite major financial strain, they did not hesitate to bundle me in the car, and rush me to an incredible urologist in Pretoria. This time I was completely anaesthetized, and when I came around he showed me his excellent craftsmanship, before bandaging me up. I’m not going to describe exactly how things look down there now, but let me just say that I will adore that man until the day I die. Extreme makeover: Dick edition.
Given the choice again, I would still choose to be cut, and I am now very satisfied with what I’ve got “going down”. It’s a personal decision I am glad I was free to make. Now I wonder if two circumcisions make me twice as much of a man, as this right of passage took a temporary wrong turn. One thing’s for sure, 25K later; I have quite an expensive member, something to be proud of. Which I am.
Health4Men’s Dr Kevin Rebe commented that medical male circumcision (MMC) has not been shown to reduce the risk of HIV by 60% among MSM; this applies only to penile-vaginal intercourse. He added that MMC is an extremely common procedure and that complications are rare. As with any surgical procedure minor problems can occur, such as a reaction to the pain injection, minor bleeding or some swelling and pain. With proper care these issues are easily treated.
There are benefits to notundergoing circumcision. The foreskin is an integral part of the penis, measuring over half of the penile skin. The foreskin is packed with nerve endings with special anatomical features such as a ridged band and has a unique elastic gliding action, allowing it to slide on itself and act ‘like’ lube. This action is what most men use to masturbate. Circumcised men use what skin is left, but men who have been cut very tightly often have to use lube. An intact man can stroke the entire length of his penis using his foreskin and he also has the option of adding lube. Removing the foreskin turns the surface of the glans from an inner mucosal membrane to les sensitive outer skin. Newly circumcised men usually go through some weeks of intense discomfort as the glans is constantly exposed to rubbing on clothing, until it develops a thicker keratin layer and becomes less sensitive.
Health4Men is a project of the Anova Health Institute NPC, funded by USAID through PEPFAR. This article represents the contributing writer’s personal views.
Health4Men would like to hear from you too! Gay and bi men from throughout South Africa are welcome to submit articles about their own lives, primarily regarding sexuality, sexual health and relationships. Selected articles, like this one, will be published in print and online. For submissions please mail email@example.com.