Voluntary Male Circumcision Below Target

Less than 5 percent of Namibian men have undergone voluntary circumcision, a figure that is way below the national target set by the Ministry of Health and Social Services.

The ministry has targeted to have 330 128 men circumcised by the end of the 201516 financial years, but so far only 16 341 men around the country have been circumcised, Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Richard Kamwi revealed last Friday. He was speaking at the launch of the Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) programme at Ongwediva, Oshana Region.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNAIDS in 2009 recommended voluntary male circumcision as an additional strategy in fighting HIVAids. Kamwi said the national strategy and the implementation plan for VMMC, launched in February, calls for scaling up male circumcision at regional level. Kamwi encouraged men to go for circumcision and women to encourage their partners, emphasising that the benefits include reducing the possibility of contracting HIV by 60 percent and other sexually transmitted infections, as well as the maintenance of penile hygiene, and the reduction of cervical cancer in women. According to the health minister, although the pilot project for VMMC at Oshakati Intermediate Hospital and Windhoek Central Hospital was rolled out to all 33 district hospitals countrywide, the national strategy and implementation plan for VMMC recommended Oshana and Zambezi regions as the first two regions where the programme should be scaled up due to their high HIV prevalence rate. “This does not mean in anyway that VMMC will not be conducted in other regions.”

Oshana Regional Governor Clemens Kashuupulwa, who also spoke at the event, said although 29 886 men in the region are targeted for VMMC by 2016, only 2 809 were circumcised under the VMMC programme to date. Kashuupulwa thus urged men who were not circumcised to take aantage of VMMC.

UNAIDS Country Director Dr Tharcisse Barihuta said that scaling up VMMC is very strategic and important for the HIV prevention programme as it will not only reduce HIV infections among men but also lower new infections among women by 40 percent.

Barihuta said Namibia has made impressive progress in the fight against HIVAIDS in the past ten years. “Based on the 2013 UNAIDS Global Report and the recent NSF Mid-Term Review, Namibia has reduced by 50 percent new infections, four percent of mother to child transmission of HIV in 2012 – it was 32 percent before – and achieved 90 percent of ART coverage in March 2013,” said Barihuta.

Barihuta further commended the government for its significant involvement in the overall flight against HIVAIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, maintaining that during the 201313 fiscal year, 64 percent of funding for national response against the diseases came from the government while other donors such as the Global Fund, US government, GIZ and the United Nations supplemented the government’s efforts.

Source : New Era