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I wondered: how can this be true if my Bagisu uncles who circumcise their men are being wiped out by AIDS?

—Prince Hillary Maloba

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My story

I am Prince Hillary Maloba Sebe. I come from a forgotten royal family that is scattered across western Kenya and eastern Uganda. My ancestor kings ruled from Naivasha, Kenya to Jinja, Uganda in the 18th Century.

I was born in Uganda 50 years ago, without knowing that circumcision exists. At the age of eight, my family had to flee Uganda to Kenya due to the war that overthrew the late dictator Idi Amin. They were given shelter by their royal family. Later they were given back their ancestral land.

The following year in August, I was called by my father with his relatives that l owe their debt. I was shocked. What kind of debt did l owe my community? I was told that I have to fulfill the great culture and legacy of King Wanga, son of Mwanga II, founder of the Wanga kingdom, and my ancestry’s greatest grandfather. The debt I had to pay to the Wanga community was to cut off my foreskin through male circumcision. This sacrifice of my foreskin would please Wanga the Great and license me to be his true royal son and defender of his cultural legacy. It would give me freedom to live, worship, trade, marry and have a family in this royal land.

By August 1978, I was told to join a group of boys older than me to exercise circumcision rituals and songs for three days. On the fourth day we were taken very early in the morning in the traditional river to be immersed in cool water in the name of Wanga the Great. We were told that we should withstand the severe pain of the knife through circumcision as brave sons of King Wanga, founder of this circumcision tradition which must be passed to each generation. We were smeared with mud, then told to march as warriors. As the circumcision songs were sung, l could see thousands of men surrounding us as they praised Wanga the Great. When l reached our gate, my father, mother and their many relatives were telling me to be brave and face the painful knife to give honor to us and Wanga the Great. Reaching my mother’s house, I was told to stand to face the knife, was circumcised, and started to bleed a lot with a lot of pain.

After some time my father noticed that there was part of the foreskin left. A re-circumcision was done and resulted in excessive bleeding and a deepened wound with prolonged wound healing. It was a severe pain that I shall never forget. Our traditional circumcision is done without anesthesia to prove that you are a true brave man to stand that severe painful circumcision. I was treated with cultural herbs which are more painful than circumcision. l healed after two months, after suffering great pains.

VMMC

When HIV/AIDS was shocking many nations, killing millions of families around the world, my mother’s brothers were among the first people who died of AIDS. In my village HIV was spreading like fire, then people started to die from AIDS.

Uganda was doing well in reducing HIV infections through a strategy called ABC [Abstain, Be faithful, use a Condom] and was praised internationally. Then suddenly we heard over the media that Western scientists have done research and found that male circumcision prevented a circumcised person from getting HIV by 60%. They were pushing VMMC in Africa to end HIV. Some media reported that circumcision is the solution to HIV, it will end AIDS among uncircumcised communities in Africa.

I wondered: how can this be true if my Bagisu uncles who circumcise their men are being wiped out by AIDS? In my tribe too AIDS is killing my relatives, terminating very many homes and yet they are circumcised.

Because of American propaganda supported by our governments that circumcision is a vaccine to HIV and will prevent people from acquiring HIV, circumcised communities started to circumcise uncircumcised communities by force when they are were found in regions where circumcision is a culture. Many were beaten and forced to get circumcised as the crowed yelled to them: “We are circumcising you to end HIV/AIDS.”

One day on my way to Mumias town, 12 Luo men were chased, caught up, beaten and denounced as HIV carriers who came to Wanga land to bring HIV because they are an uncircumcised tribe. They were circumcised by force, against their will and their culture in the name of kicking HIV out of Kenya.

Another time I was travelling to Busia on my way to Uganda and saw a crowd beating a middle aged Teso man to get forced circumcision as a way to end AIDS in Kenya.

Later at Namugondi in Uganda, a Samia man was caught, beaten and forcibly circumcised as the crowd demanded we need to circumcise them all to end HIV in Uganda. Against his culture and beliefs and against his will, this bitter man went to the extent of swallowing his foreskin.

The concept of VMMC as the best strategy to end HIV in Africa led me to question the theory of male circumcision as a solution to HIV. Thousands of circumcised men are dying of HIV/AIDS, even my own family. Millions of children are left orphans. Millions of circumcised men are living with HIV on ARV treatment. Circumcision is violating the rights of communities who do not circumcise as they are tortured, beaten and circumcised by force as a way to end HIV in Africa based on blatant lies. Serious complications and even deaths have been reported from traditional male circumcision carried out on adolescents, as well as from clinical male circumcision on infants, children, youths and men.

Rebel with a cause

I have a passion for defending the rights of uncircumcised communities in Kenya, though I come from a community that circumcises all boys as our culture demands. I have stood alone for a long time to denounce male circumcision and forced male circumcision among the Luos in Kenya and Samias in Uganda. l have worked for many years in the struggle against genital cutting in Africa.

In the early ‘90s I happened to read the work of Mama Marilyn F. Milos which gave me hope. When l contacted her she was of great help and became my role model; she has stood with me in the fight against forced circumcision for years. It was through her that I was approached by the VMMC Experience Project to investigate deep in mysteries surrounding VMMC in Uganda and Kenya. This gave me a great opportunity to hear from communities that are now affected and infected with HIV/AIDS because of the Western circumcision propaganda.

The truth is that Africans who believed they were protected by circumcision are now on ARVs or dying from AIDS, leaving thousands of AIDS orphans. VMMC is increasing HIV and STIs among men, women, and youths. The main agents of this disaster are the medical establishment and the corrupt governments that allow world powers to maintain their control over Africa.

I demand the banning of VMMC in Africa. It has failed to reduce HIV. Instead it is spreading HIV and killing Africans. It has failed to respect and honor a vast array of cultures that had been fighting HIV effectively. It violates the human rights of Africans.

I am Ramadhan Mutebi, a Ugandan by nationality aged 40. I live in Dabani Village, Dabani Sub-County, Busia District in Uganda. I hold a diploma in Agriculture and am pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Developmental Studies.

I was circumcised when I was five years old and this was due to a religious rite. Circumcision is not part of our culture.

In February 2016 I participated in the VMMC Experience Project as a Community Mobiliser with a team of researchers from Kenya led by Prince Maloba Sebe. The main aim was to understand how circumcision has helped people in HIV reduction in Uganda. We interviewed youth groups, community leaders and cultural and religious leaders in Busia, Budaka, Bukedea and Mbale districts in Uganda.

The research revealed VMMC has increased on the high rate of HIV infection as compared to the areas where circumcision is not massively practiced. Mbale, a Bugisu region in eastern Uganda where circumcision is massively practiced, had the highest rate of HIV infection. Still in February 2016, the president of the Republic of Uganda visited the Teso region where circumcision is not commonly practiced and HIV infection was lower than areas of massive circumcision.

For that case, I believe that the science of circumcision is not for HIV reduction; it is a business of investors in Africa. My proposal is to channel the funds to improve health centres and bring more ARVs, condoms, and sensitisation of the communities for awareness.

I am a graduate of Masinde Muliro University in Social Sciences. I work as an advocate for children's rights in Kenya. I came to join anti-male circumcision campaigns when I, my father and four of his friends were forcibly circumcised by mob justice to "end HIV." One of these friends has since died of HIV.

Four years ago I joined Prince Maloba's efforts to fight against forced circumcision in western Kenya and eastern Uganda as a way to end HIV in Africa. I joined the VMMC Experience Project as a Coordinator in 2016 to find out from infected and affected communities if voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) has reduced HIV in Kenya or not. My shocking revelation was that VMMC has totally failed to reduce HIV among circumcised people. Instead, HIV has increased among the circumcised population, causing a lot suffering, pains and deaths.

I see circumcision as anti-human, torture and a terrorist act against children and captured young men. My passion is to fight to the end to ban this practice in Africa.

My name is Keneth Nuwamanya. I hold a diploma in Science Laboratory Technology. I come from the Ankole tribe which is heavily targeted for VMMC.

I don't embrace VMMC because it came with a propaganda that it reduces HIV contraction, hence many Ugandan youth have fallen victim to HIV due to misleading information.

Due to VMMC many men I know complain that they have totally lost sexual pleasure feelings.