ABOUT 70,000 men have been circumcised since the launch of the programme in 2009 by government in partnership with Pupulation Service International, Director of the Gates Male Circumcision Partnership project Dr Karin Hatzold has said.
Hatzold was speaking at a press conference ahead of the circumcision Friday of 48 Members of Parliament. Some 129 MPs, their spouses and parliament staff took part in HIV tests during the week as part of the country’s fight against HIV/AIDS.
Zimbabwe has 1.1 million people living with HIV, including 150,000 children, according to the National AIDS Council. But the country has made significant gains in fighting HIV, which infected 14 percent of the population in 2009, down from 23 percent in 2003, according to the United Nations.
Circumcision is said to help reduce the risk of contracting HIV and the Zimbabwe campaign is targeting to have 1.2 million boys and men circumcised by 2015.
“Our main challenge now is demand creation, getting word to local communities encouraging more people to be circumcised. Local leadership that includes chiefs has to be involved and we are hoping that MPs will take the message to them,” Hatzold said.
She added that male circumcision will prevent 600,000 people from getting infected while lowering by 42 percent new HIV infections.
Head of the HIV and TB unit in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, Dr Owen Mugurungi said women should encourage their spouses and partners to go for circumcision as the advantages also apply to them.
“Circumcision lowers the female-to-male HIV transmission by 60 percent. It also reduces the chances of cervical cancer among women,” he said.
Dr Mugurungi however, said circumcision was not a magic bullet that gave people the green light to have unprotected sex.
“Circumcision is not a magic bullet but part of a prevention package. There is a lot of misconception out there and we are appealing to the media to help us communicate that circumcision is not a magic bullet,” he said.
“The media has to educate the community not to move around looking for circumcised men with the intention of not using protection when they have sex.
“Women are now looking for men who are circumcised and they do not want to use condoms. We should not be creating false hope.”