ZIMBABWE is planning to expand its circumcision campaign to include newly-born babies as part of the country’s fight against the spread of HIV and AIDS, a senior health ministry official has confirmed.
The ministry’s AIDS and TB unit co-ordinator, Getrude Ncube, said a pilot project targeting babies between one and 28 days old would be launched before year end with the full programme likely to be rolled out in 2014.
"The project will start in Harare and Bulawayo," Ncube said adding that, gradually, all maternity sites across the country would be circumcising newly born babies by 2014.
"Although circumcising neonates will not have an immediate impact, results will show in 20 years’ time. Our sole aim is to try and reduce new HIV infections."
The programme was launched in 2009 with officials targeting to have 80 per cent of the male population circumcised by 2015.
Currently the programme is only targeting the 15-49 age group and around 700,000 men have already undergone the procedure against a target of 1.2 million by 2015.
Dozens of legislators were also recently circumcised as part of efforts to publicise the procedure which has become a key part of the country’s fight against HIV/AIDS
Circumcised men are said to be 60 per cent less likely to get infected with HIV but the latest Zimbabwe Demographic Survey indicated that the prevalence rate among circumcised men was higher than that of those who were uncircumcised.
Officials have also warned that the procedure should not be seen as a “licence” for irresponsible sexual behaviour.
“Circumcision is not a magic bullet but part of a prevention package,” the head of the head of the health ministry’s HIV and TB unit, Dr Owen Mugurungi said last month
“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.
“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 do not want to create false hope.”
Zimbabwe is one of the countries worst affected by HIV/AIDS with around a million people believed to be infected with the disease which, if left untreated, can lead to the break-down of a patient's immune system.
The one million figure represents around 14 per cent of Zimbabwe's population but is a vast improvement on higher prevalence levels of around 23 per cent seen back in 2003.