When he first visited the clinic, Joel Otieno* was not as open about his story as he is today. Perhaps he was not comfortable being in the company of the young men who make up a chunk of the clinic’s clientele. He kept fidgeting uneasily in his seat and asking the counselor when he would be served.
Joel was served at last! The sixty-year-old breathed a sigh of relief. His excitement overshadowed the immense pain that usually overwhelms the clients when the local anesthesia wears off, thirty minutes after the surgery. ‘It was the end of my four years of suffering’ he says today.
Four years ago, Joel was diagnosed with balanitis (an inflammation of the glans penis) and the doctor referred him for circumcision as a permanent solution to the problem alongside other medication. At a cost of four thousand shillings**, Joel could not afford the circumcision, neither could he afford the recommended medication; as such the disease soon became chronic.
“My life has been unbearable for the last four years; I struggled to clean my private area which was sore with pain and produced smelly discharge. Sometimes it got terribly itchy,” he laments. He would avoid people’s company suspecting that they would see through his uneasiness and realize his problem. Perhaps he felt the same way at the clinic on his first day.
Joel remembers how disappointed he was when he came to the clinic that day hoping he was the first and would therefore be served fast, only to realize many people were ahead of him and only twenty were booked for circumcision per day. The clinic serves on a first-come first-serve basis. Three days later when coming for his first review appointment, he was the earliest to arrive at the clinic and was served first and as quickly as he had hoped. As a routine part of male circumcision services, all clients receive HIV counseling and testing, risk reduction counseling, and other related age specific sexual and reproductive health counseling. Joel still remembers in great detail the counseling that he was given and he appreciates the process. When he came for his one week review, the clinician found a sexually transmitted infection, which he treated.
Today, Joel says he has fully recovered. His wife although supportive, was initially against the circumcision fearing irreversible complications; she too is now a happy woman. And how does Joel feel? He is delighted – he says “Right” to the counselor in his now characteristic manner and breaks out in rich hearty mirth that makes him look years younger.
* Note: All names have been changed.
** About $50 US