Friday, September 07, 2007

Modern Realities Of HIV Impacts Long Held Cultural Practices In Kenya


HIV loosens Kenyan tribe's resistance to circumcision

MBITA, Kenya - Family gatherings for Collins Omondi once were boisterous affairs here on the verdant shores of Lake Victoria. But in just 11 years, AIDS has killed seven of his uncles, six aunts, five cousins and both his parents. His extended family now consists of one surviving uncle, an aunt and their 2-year-old child -- all of whom have AIDS.

Omondi, 28, a tall, broad-shouldered fish trader, has come to believe that a quirk of culture contributed to the decimation of his family. They were Luos, members of the only major tribe in Kenya that does not routinely circumcise boys. The absence of this ritual, Omondi said, helps explain why Luos are dying from AIDS at a rate unheard of among other Kenyans and rare in East Africa.

Twenty years after the first reports of a connection between HIV rates and circumcision, scientists are saying it is essential to understanding the path of the disease through Africa and possibly to reversing its course. President Bush's $15 billion anti-AIDS program is pledging millions of dollars to Kenya and other countries so they can offer circumcision services in communities long defined, in part, by their reluctance to perform the procedure

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