Be Jet Li

For teenage boys about to be circumcised, they look pretty relaxed.

Half-perched on a car tyre, one of them shuffles cards from a martial arts-themed deck.

The faces of Jet Li, Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee flash through the air as they cards are dealt.

The mobile circumcision unit, just 40 or so metres away, is the last thing on their minds as they cajole and hustle one another.

The truck is the brainchild of local organization Jhpiego.

In a vast country where HIV rates are still alarmingly high, and access is limited to health facilities that can perform preventative measures like circumcision, units like this are a simple and yet brilliant solution.

Perhaps inwardly channeling one of his kung fu icons, Helio Uvisse says he’s not scared about his impending operation.

And yet, away from the earshot of his friends, the 16-year-old admits he’s a little nervous.

“One of my friends says it was painful,” he says. “But I know this is a good thing because it will help me avoid illness.”

Amazingly, Helio was brought here today by his 70-year-old uncle who also wanted to get circumcised.

When Alberto Chambale heard on the radio the mobile unit would be visiting Xinavane, he decided to travel the 16 kilometres from his village Magude.

“I’ve been sad because I’ve wanted to be circumcised for a long time,” he says. “But there’s never been the chance to get it done and I sometimes wished I lived somewhere like Johannesburg.”

And Alberto has brought his nephew so that he too can “grow up clean”.

NOTE: Some of the images below are graphic in nature.

An area of up to 30 square kilometres has been targeted via community radio for this particular session – and judging by the presence of Alberto the PR campaign appears to be working.

The set-up is a slick affair and resembles a streamlined manufacturing assembly – or in this case, a disassembly – line.

Working in conjunction with the Mozambican Ministry of Health they can perform up to 50 procedures a day.

But even before the young boys are operated on, they’re cycled through a counseling tent where they first get tested for HIV before answering any questions about the procedure.

The counselor stresses that circumcision only reduces the risk of contracting HIV, and that additional precautions like wearing a condom are needed.

“Going from negative to positive is easy,” he tells one boy. “But going from positive to negative is impossible.”

I will continue to perfect myself, he replies.

Marc Ellison is in Mozambique on a trip organized by the International Reporting Project (IRP).