Uganda’s Vasectomy Plan: Pros and Cons

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SEATTLE — Uganda’s government has begun promoting vasectomies as a way to reduce its high fertility rate. This strategy seeks to mitigate one of the world’s fastest growing populations in one of the world’s poorest countries. But what are the chances of this tactic succeeding? Uganda’s vasectomy plan has both opportunities and challenges ahead.

PRO: Vasectomy is a cost-effective alternative to birth control
Religious activists may have objections to providing Uganda with contraceptives. Cautious philanthropists may not want to donate their money to temporary solutions. Vasectomies, as a compromise, are a simple, safe, highly effective and private way to control family planning. The procedure itself prevents sperm from reaching a man’s penis. Under local anesthesia, the patient will have his vas deferens (the tubes that carry sperm) tied or cut. For the squeamish, a no-scalpel version of the surgery will have the tubes pulled out through tiny holes in the scrotum. But the procedure only causes minor discomfort. As long as the patient knows the process is permanent and irreversible, a vasectomy can be a dream solution.

CON: Vasectomies do not protect against STDs
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services warns that vasectomies are no substitute for condoms when it comes to averting disease. Though the procedure prevents pregnancy, a vasectomy is not a solution to all of Uganda’s sex-related challenges.

According to AllAfrica, Uganda has made tremendous strides in reducing STDs. The number of HIV-infected babies declined from 28,000 in 2011 to 3,500 in 2016. However, the country discovers 230 new HIV infections each day, and AIDS kills 76 people in the region daily. If men believe they can have unprotected sex after a vasectomy, then Uganda’s vasectomy plan may cause increasing disease rates instead of increasing birth rates.

PRO: The idea of vasectomies is spreading
On November 17, 2017, 50 countries celebrated the fifth anniversary of World Vasectomy Day. The event, sponsored by DKT International, has led to family planning outreach in Indonesia, India and Kenya. In order to promote the procedure, some men even live-stream interviews while they receive a vasectomy on the holiday. DKT International has provided affordable options for family planning to African countries since 1989. With their whole weight behind promoting vasectomies, the option will soon become available to even the poorest in Africa.

CON: The procedure is still unpopular in Uganda.
Though Uganda’s vasectomy plan has men speak on television about the procedure, not all fears have been alleviated. Ugandans still worry about stigma, possible impotence and the loss of their family after such a procedure.

Martin Owor, one of Uganda’s “champion men” in their vasectomy plan, had to convince his family of the benefits of surgery. As a champion man, Owor speaks to others about how the decision enriched his life. He is aware that not many other men believe so. “Many people think that when a man goes for a vasectomy, he is not going to continue being a normal man,” said Owor in a San Francisco Chronicle article.

SYNTHESIS: Education is the most important weapon in Uganda’s vasectomy plan
Uganda became a leader in fighting HIV through spreading information. The country can do so once again by convincing its population that a vasectomy is not castration or a source of shame. Proper sex education can also convince men that there are other birth control methods available. Ritah Mwagale of Uganda Health Marketing Group supports vasectomies, provided that Ugandan men still have an informed choice on how they create their family. She ultimately suggests that the country, “identify… male role models who have undergone vasectomy to… address myths and ill perceptions regarding vasectomy services.”

No matter what route is taken, the best birth control plan is the one Uganda chooses for itself.

– Nick Edinger
Photo: Flickr

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