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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The perceptions on male circumcision as a preventive measure against HIV infection and considerations in scaling up of the services: a qualitative study among police officers in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Edith AM Tarimo1*, Joel M Francis2, Deodatus Kakoko3, Patricia Munseri4, Muhammad Bakari4 and Eric Sandstrom5

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Nursing Management, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

2 National Institute for Medical Research, Mwanza Research Centre, Mwanza, Tanzania

3 Department of Behavioural Sciences, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

4 Department of Internal Medicine, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

5 Venhälsan, Södersjukhuset, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:529  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-529

Published: 19 July 2012



In recent randomized controlled trials, male circumcision has been proven to complement the available biomedical interventions in decreasing HIV transmission from infected women to uninfected men. Consequently, Tanzania is striving to scale-up safe medical male circumcision to reduce HIV transmission. However, there is a need to investigate the perceptions of male circumcision in Tanzania using specific populations. The purpose of the present study was to assess the perceptions of male circumcision in a cohort of police officers that also served as a source of volunteers for a phase I/II HIV vaccine (HIVIS-03) trial in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.


In-depth interviews with 24 men and 10 women were conducted. Content analysis informed by the socio-ecological model was used to analyze the data.


Informants perceived male circumcision as a health-promoting practice that may prevent HIV transmission and other sexually transmitted infections. They reported male circumcision promotes sexual pleasure, confidence and hygiene or sexual cleanliness. They added that it is a religious ritual and a cultural practice that enhances the recognition of manhood in the community. However, informants were concerned about the cost involved in male circumcision and cleanliness of instruments used in medical and traditional male circumcision. They also expressed confusion about the shame of undergoing circumcision at an advanced age and pain that could emanate after circumcision. The participants advocated for health policies that promote medical male circumcision at childhood, specifically along with the vaccination program.


The perceived benefit of male circumcision as a preventive strategy to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections is important. However, there is a need to ensure that male circumcision is conducted under hygienic conditions. Integrating male circumcision service in the routine childhood vaccination program may increase its coverage at early childhood. The findings from this investigation provide contextual understanding that may assist in scaling-up male circumcision in Tanzania.

Perception; Police officers; Male circumcision; HIV; Tanzania