Forty-four members of Zimbabwe’s parliament were circumcised on Friday as part of a national HIV/AIDS awareness campaign.

In a rare show of political unity, the MPs from President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s rival MDC camp chatted calmly with reporters as they queued at a clinic set up inside the parliament complex.

“When I went in there I was a bit scared but after they had explained the process I felt at ease,” 53-year-old Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) MP Blessing Chebundo told Reuters within minutes of the operation.

“Now I don’t feel any pain. I can even go and play a match of football.”

Research cited by the World Health Organization has shown that male circumcision – removing all or part of the foreskin – can reduce a man’s risk of getting HIV by up to 60 percent.

The procedure has become a central pillar of the southern African nation’s fight against AIDS, and one MP even allowed photographers to take pictures of him lying on a bed with his recently bandaged penis on display.

Zimbabwe had one of the world’s highest HIV infection rates in the late 1990s, but that more than halved to an estimated 13.7 percent of the adult population in 2009.