Zimbabwe launches new plan for voluntary male circumcision

Zimbabwe has launched a voluntary medical male circumcision accelerated operational plan as part of a bigger process to fight HIV and AIDS in the country over the next four years.

Zimbabwe has launched a voluntary medical male circumcision accelerated operational plan as part of a bigger process to fight HIV and AIDS in the country over the next four years.

On 29 January, the government published policy guidelines on voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) and an accelerated strategic and operational plan for VMMC for 2014 to 2018.

Dr David Parirenyatwa, minister of health and child care, said: “The two documents we are launching are aimed at accelerating our efforts towards further reduction of new HIV infections through the voluntary medical male circumcision programme.”

Medical male circumcision

The World Health Organisation says that male circumcision should be considered an effective intervention for HIV prevention. It states: “There is compelling evidence that male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by approximately 60 per cent.”

The organisation further emphasises that male circumcision provides only partial protection and should be used with other prevention packages such as treatment of sexually transmitted infections, the promotion of safer sex practises, and the provision of male and female condoms.

The Zimbabwe government adopted circumcision as one of the comprehensive HIV prevention strategies in 2009.

HIV prevalence decline

Parirenyatwa said that the introduction of the voluntary medical male circumcision programme presents the country with a rare but important opportunity to further reduce HIV prevalence.

“Through the Abstinence, Being faithful and Consistent use of condoms (ABC) approach we embarked on since the coming of HIV, there has been a steady decline from around 30 per cent in the 1990s to about 15 per cent in 2014. Modelling shows that this will continue to decline slowly to just below 10 per cent by 2025 with the current interventions,” Parirenyatwa said.

The minister also reported that the addition of the voluntary medical male circumcision programme to other HIV prevention methods has demonstrated to reduce the prevalence further to 4.4 per cent by 2025.

“It will result in 220,000 new infections averted and net savings of nearly US$1.1 billion from the resultant costs of care,” Parirenyatwa said.

Consolidation of achievements

The new plan is being launched to ensure the country consolidates its achievements attained so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

According to Parirenyatwa, as of the end of 2014, the country slightly surpassed the 400,000 circumcision mark since inception of the programme.

“This represents 30 per cent of the 1.3 million target that we need to achieve by 2017,” he said.

According to Sinokuthemba Xaba, national male circumcision coordinator, the ministry of health and child care has a target of circumcising nearly 900,000 males by 2018.

Dr Parirenyatwa advises males who undergo circumcision to continue to use other HIV prevention methods such as abstinence, faithfulness to one sexual partner, HIV testing and condom use among others.

Male circumcision ambassadors

Renowned Zimbabwean musicians, Jah Prazah, Winky D, Sulumani Chimbetu and Albert Nyathi, who have been appointed male circumcision ambassadors in Zimbabwe by Population Services International, urged young males to go for circumcision at the launch.

The ambassadors gave their testimonies of being circumcised at the launch event in the town of Marondera. They all remarked that male circumcision was safe and healthy especially for young men.

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