Meshack Filipo

Meshack Filipo

The man who used to be ashamed of himself

MeshackFilipo is a charming young man who found himselffeeling ashamed for a long time and running away from his friends. They laughed at him, they ridiculed him, and made fun of him whenever they were together, telling him that he was not man enough. But now Meshack’s worries are over and the jokes have died, all because he decided to get circumcised.

KIHUMBE, a local NGO working in Mbeya on HIV Prevention, is the reason for Meshack’s revival. The program is funded by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the Walter Reed. Meshack is among thousands of men who have been targeted for male circumcision in Mbeya.

Being a 20 year old businessman in the city, despite his charm, Meshack always found himself feeling depressed when he came across his friends who used to laugh at him for not being circumcised. “Their words were hurtful, but it was the truth that I was not circumcised. You can’t stop people from talking bad about you while what they are saying is true,” he says.

Unfortunately Meshack, who lives in Isanga ward in Mbeya City, did not have the opportunity to get circumcised when he was a young boy because his grandmother, who raised him, did not have the means to take him to the hospital. When he started living on his own, that was when he felt so depressed because he couldn’t even talk about his situation, and felt ashamed.

Imagine that I have a girlfriend, but I couldn’t even tell her that I was not circumcised. She would have laughed at me and probably left me and tell other people about my situation. Whenever we had sexual intercourse, I made sure that the lights were turned off so that she couldn’t notice what was going on,” he explains.

But Meshack’s worries with his girlfriend and his other friends are now over. He met KIHUMBE’s Peer Educator, NiganileAsumwisyeKilema, who explained to him about the program and how male circumcision was important in the prevention of HIV. He agreed to undergo the procedure and was referred to the Mbeya Referral Hospital where he underwent the minor surgery.

I see Niganile as my mother. She has saved me, especially since when she first talked about male circumcision I was with my friends and couldn’t ask her any question because I knew they would have laughed at me again. But later I went back to her alone, and she gave me the education that I needed and even escorted me to the hospital, and now I feel so good,” says a proud Meshack.

The best part is that he no longer feels ashamed, and he has even gathered the courage to tell his girlfriend, especially since they cannot have any sexual intercourse until his wound heals.

Meshack boasts: “I am so happy and do not feel ashamed anymore. I am not even scared of my friends, since I can now share a toilet with them without the fear of being laughed at again. Before this, I used to do everything in hiding.”

ven the Peer Educator, Niganile, is proud of her client. She says that it is important for Peer Educators to be open and talk to youth in the community, and discuss with them about issues that can help in HIV prevention. She adds that male circumcision is a very good HIV prevention method, especially since in Mbeya City, one in five men is not circumcised.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there is compelling evidence that male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infections in men by approximately 60%.