By Robert Tapfumaneyi
In a bid to fight HIV and AIDS, Zimbabwe’s Population Services International (PSI) has introduced a male circumcision programme set to target nearly 1.2 million men by 2015.
Various strategies have been introduced to ensure the programme’s success such as roping in a young musician as a Brand Ambassador and securing Parliamentarians against HIV and AIDS to join the drive as a measure of eradicating the HIV pandemic. However, the programme has hit a snag as only 75 000 men have been circumcised so far since it began in 2009, which is less than expected.
According to research by some health experts, circumcision can reduces HIV contraction by 60%, although consistent and correct use of condoms must also be used alongside this intervention.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Zimbabwe (CDC Zimbabwe) said it has started to think about new ways to influence Zimbabwean men to get circumcised. Speaking to journalists at a workshop on HIV/AIDS prevention monitoring and evaluation techniques, CDC Zimbabwe Director Dr. Peter Kilmarx said further research is now going on to understand what men’s barriers may be to accessing circumcision services, which will be used to address these concerns.
“I think there is also a limitation of manpower and from the discussion the responsible people have been saying that we should not only be depending on government doctors but work with private partners in order to meet the demand,” said Dr. Kilmarx.
Speaking about Zimbabwe’s AIDS programs Dr. Kilmarx added that if the peace and stability currently prevailing in Zimbabwe maintained, the country’s economy will improve and assist in the procurement of ARVs, which are in short supply.
“There is an expectation that if the country’s economy improves – and there is already a sign of the leadership’s willingness to seeing resources being properly managed and growing – this, combined with donors’ funding, [means] we see the future being bright,” he said.
CDC Zimbabwe is supporting a four-day workshop on developing effective monitoring and evaluation techniques for HIV prevention.
“Robust monitoring and evaluation are critical components of effective public health programs,” said Dr. Kilmarx. “Operating without them is like driving with your eyes closed. CDC Zimbabwe is very pleased to sponsor this world-class PEPFAR workshop for the benefit of all Zimbabweans.”
CDC Zimbabwe has supported the creation and enhancement of Zimbabwean government policies, guidelines, standards, and programs in the fight against HIV and AIDS and other diseases through the application of scientific findings. The training will assist government and nongovernmental actors in the health sector to develop a comprehensive overview of monitoring and evaluation of HIV prevention programs. Participants will explore and discuss the resources needed to monitor and evaluate effective HIV prevention programs. They will also learn to select and evaluate the best evidence-based biomedical, behavioral, social, and/or structural interventions for the country’s HIV prevention needs.
The US-based National Network of STD/HIV Prevention Training Centers is facilitating the training, which is funded by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and CDC Zimbabwe through the US government’s Southern Africa Prevention Initiative. Key PEPFAR program activities in Zimbabwe complement Zimbabwe’s national HIV/AIDS plan by providing support to critical prevention, care, and treatment interventions.
CDC has run similar trainings on evidence-based HIV prevention interventions throughout Africa, Central America, and Asia over the past 30 years.