More and More Men Accept Being Circumcised

New statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicated an estimated 5.8 million males in 14 African priority countries have undergone circumcision over the past five years.

Nearly half of the estimated 5.8 million men and boys circumsized undertook the medical circumcision procedure in 2013 alone.

This forms part of HIV prevention strategies by 14 priority countries, namely: Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

These eastern and southern African countries are said to have high rates of heterosexual HIV transmission and historically low levels of male circumcision coverage.

According to Mireille Williams Sharp, a senior associate at Global Health Strategies based in New York, United States of America who was among the participants at the international AIDS conference in Melbourne, Australia last month, circumcision has proven to be the most cost-effective and a high impact HIV prevention tool.

“Voluntary medical male circumcision is a one time procedure that has been shown to reduce female-to-male HIV transmission by 60 percent making it one of the most high-impact and cost effective prevention tools available,” Sharp told a New Era correspondent.

She noted that despite the scale-up of the procedure, resources seem to be waning, a situation that could derail the progress that has been achieved so far.

“Despite this achievement, countries now face major challenges in maintaining momentum. Action is needed to close a looming resource gap of over US$700 million to ensure men at highest risk of HIV exposure have access. Only US$790 million is presumed to be available for the initiative going forward,” noted Sharp.

Sharp debunked misconceptions that voluntary medical male circumcision may lead men to adopt riskier behaviour.

“A new long-term study in Kenya adds to the body of evidence suggesting that voluntary medical male circumcision does not lead men to adopt riskier behaviour. In fact, the study found that men reduce their HIV risk behaviour after choosing medical circumcision,” stated the health expert.

The WHO further reveals attaining a near universal coverage of voluntary medical male circumcision could change the course of the HIV epidemic in Africa.

Research suggests that reaching 80 percent coverage in the 14 priority countries within five years and maintaining this level for another ten years would prevent more than 3 million HIV infections and save more than US$16 billion in future health care costs.

In efforts aimed at scaling up medical male circumcision as a prevention tool, countries are setting national targets for attaining high coverage.

The Namibian experience has been equally impressive. Voluntary medical male circumcision has been incorporated into HIV prevention programmes following a joint recommendation by the WHO and United Nations AIDS Organisation (UNAIDS) in 2007.

This decision was further endorsed by the Namibian cabinet culminating in the official launch of the Namibia male circumcision policy by President Hifikepunye Pohamba in 2010.

A pilot project was introduced in 2009 at the Windhoek central and Oshakati intermediate hospitals and to date 16 341 males have been circumcised countrywide.

The national target for male circumcision is 330 128.

HIV and AIDS in Namibia is a critical public health issue.

The HIV prevalence rate in Namibia stands at 17.8 percent.

Source : New Era