Rwanda in vasectomy drive to stem population growth

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Rwanda's government has said it wants to encourage men to have vasectomies in a bid to stem the small landlocked country's growing population.

It would be done along with its HIV-prevention campaign to encourage all men to be circumcised.

Health officials would take the opportunity to talk to men about the birth-control method at the same time.

A BBC reporter in Rwanda says vasectomies are uncommon in the country and the move may meet resistance.

A vasectomy is often irreversible. The operation for a male sterilisation takes about 15 minutes and can be carried out in a clinic under local anaesthetic.

Start Quote

I think I can't go for it - you may plan to have two children and then unfortunately one dies”

End Quote Man in Kigali

The Rwandan government has been encouraging male circumcision since 2008 as the UN World Health Organization says it reduces the risk of heterosexual HIV infection.

Health Minister Richard Sezibera said the government aimed to have 700,000 men circumcised in the next three years.

"Those who will be willing to join the programme of family planning will be allowed to have a vasectomy," Dr Sezibera said.

But men interviewed on the streets of the capital, Kigali, were cautious about such a permanent method of contraception.

"I think I can't go for it. You may plan to have two children and then unfortunately one dies," one man told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

"When this happens when you already have had vasectomy, you can't have another child. Instead of going for vasectomy, you would rather practice other methods."

"I can never go for it," another added.

One man was a little more positive: "I personally wouldn't prefer to. But perhaps if I had three children, I would go."

The BBC's Geoffrey Mutagoma in Kigali says apart from condom use, birth control is usually left to women.

"Sometimes men are really in need of having birth control but they will not use condoms every day, every time," Sam Kyaggambiddwa of Urunana, a local non-governmental organisation that promotes reproductive health through radio dramas, told the BBC.

He said that given the option and right advice, men might be more willing to consider having a vasectomy.

Experts say a slowdown in Rwanda's fast-growing population, which the UN estimates was 10.2 million in 2010, would help improve living standards.

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