16 000 Men Heed Circumcision Call

MORE than 16 000 men have so far been circumcised in Namibia as part of a voluntary medical male circumcision programme.

Ministry of Health and Social Services assistant coordinator under the directorate of special programmes, Mekondjo Aupokolo, said the programme is being supported by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Global Fund (PEPFAR).

Aupokolo said of the targeted 330 128 by 2016, only 16 341 have been circumcised. He said Oshana and Zambezi regions have circumcised 2 890 and 946 respectively.

He announced that the Zambezi strategic voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) programme will be launched on 7 July 2014 by health minister Richard Kamwi in Katima Mulilo, which is part of the targeted strategic plans for all the regions.

“The Namibia strategic framework for the programme roll-out was developed in phases. The ministry and stakeholders saw Zambezi and Oshana regions befitting such category and started there, while other regions will follow suit,” he said.

Aupokolo added that although the ministry aims to have children circumcised while in their infancy, it is now more focused on targeting males from the ages of 15 to 49.

According to the health ministry, Namibia is behind 13 other countries in the East and Southern African regions with a high HIV prevalence that have introduced VMMC programmes.

He said that results of randomised control trials conducted in Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa indicated that male circumcision reduces the chances of heterosexual men getting infected with HIV by up to 60%.

Following the revelation of these scientific statistics, the World Health Organisation and UNAIDS made joint recommendations in 2007 for member countries with high HIV prevalence to include male circumcision as an additional strategy in their HIV prevention packages.

Namibia first implemented its VMMC pilot project in 2009 at leading state hospitals, such as the Windhoek Central Hospital and Oshakati Intermediate Hospital. So far, the ministry has rolled out the programme at all 33 district hospitals in the country.

However, Namibia only started actively scaling up its regional strategy this year, prioritising regions with the least reported circumcised men and a high HIV prevalence like Oshana, which saw the official launch of the programme in June.

Aupokolo said that apart from reducing HIV infection, male circumcision decreases the risk of urinary tract infections reduces risk of sexually transmitted diseases in men protects against cancer of the penis, prevents inflammation of the glands and foreskin altogether.

He also encouraged women to motivate their partners to seek VMMC as it is also for their own health benefit.

“For women whose partners are circumcised, it reduces the risk of cervical cancer by removing the human papilloma virus that is often carried in the foreskin,” he explained, adding that having fewer men getting infected with HIV also means fewer women getting infected.

Source : The Namibian