Public personalities praised over circumcision campaign

Policy-makers and public personalities are doing much to promote male circumcision and to fight against HIV, says a senior government official.

“Our parliamentarians and councillors support various initiatives in their constituencies and at different platforms speak out with regards to these issues,” said Owen Mugurungi, who leads the AIDS and TB unit in the health ministry.

“We also have a number of public personalities, particularly musicians, who are working as brand ambassadors for the male circumcision programme and doing a lot to reach out, particularly to the younger males in our nation.”

A total of 166,790 boys and men, aged between 15 and 49, were circumcised in the voluntary programme from 2009 to September 2013.

The programme wants to reach 1.3m men by 2017 as part of a comprehensive HIV prevention programme.

The expansion of the programme carries its own risks, however. The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that circumcision does not guarantee protection from HIV, but people may wrongly believe they are now safe. “Although results demonstrate that male circumcision reduces the risk of men becoming infected with HIV, the UN agencies emphasize that it does not provide complete protection against HIV infection. Circumcised men can still become infected with the virus and, if HIV-positive, can infect their sexual partners.

Male circumcision should never replace other known effective prevention methods and should always be considered as part of a comprehensive prevention package, which includes correct and consistent use of male or female condoms, reduction in the number of sexual partners, delaying the onset of sexual relations, and HIV testing and counselling,” says WHO.

Here in Zimbabwe, Mugurungi said that, although the leadership and advocacy had partly contributed to increased outputs in the male circumcision programme, more could still be done to ensure community leaders spoke the same language of HIV prevention.”

In 2012, Zimbabwe Parliamentarians Against HIV, an advocacy group of MPs led by the then deputy prime minister, Arthur Mutambara, voluntarily underwent circumcision.

Recently, music legends such as Oliver Mtukudzi and other public personalities have added their voice in the campaign.

Mugurungi said the target for 2014 was to circumcise 217,800 males aged 13 years and above.

“We are going to launch the PrePex device some time during the course of the year. They are currently working to ensure that the necessary preparations are in place, which includes procuring the devices and distributing them to relevant sites, as well as training health workers.

“We will be starting with a few sites, and roll out to more sites as the year progresses,” he said.

The PrePex device enables safe non-surgical adult male circumcision. Unlike standard circumcision, which is an operation carried out by doctors, PrePex can be used by nurses, as it simply clips the foreskin.

A pilot study of PrePex on Zimbabwean men was carried out last year and WHO recommended that it was safe to be used in the country.

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