“The response is good and encouraging. Government and health officials are very cooperative,” said Charles Wanga, a communications officer with Jhpiego, an NGO affiliated with Johns Hopkins University that is working with the government to roll out the programme in Iringa, a region in the southern Tanzanian highlands.
An estimated 67 percent of Tanzanian men are circumcised, but prevalence varies from region to region; in some parts of western Tanzania, circumcision levels are as low as 20 percent. The programme aims to circumcise 2.8 million males aged between 10 and 34 within five years. It focuses on seven regions in western Tanzania where levels of male circumcision are particularly low: Iringa, Kagera, Mar, Mwanza, Rukwa, Shinyanga and Tabora.
According to PlusNews the project aimed to circumcise 260,000 men and boys in Iringa by 2015; the first phase, which ended in December 2011, was expected to cover 20,000.
“Up to September , 30,000 men and boys were circumcised under the programme, which reflects success of 150 percent.”
According to Jhpiego, most of those volunteering for male circumcision in Iringa are adolescent boys and unmarried men; older, married men have been more reluctant to come forward. Just 38 percent of Iringa men are circumcised; the region has an HIV prevalence rate of 15.7 percent – about three times the national average.
In the northwestern region of Kagera, more than 13,000 men and boys underwent circumcision between 2010 and 2011, according to Songoro Biki, an official with the NGO, International Centre for AIDS Prevention, which is supporting male circumcision in the area.
“The response to the campaign is quite promising as more people were showing up voluntarily for the ‘cut’; we expect to reach over 300,000 by 2015,” he said.
He said the service was being provided at the Bukoba Regional hospital and Rubya hospital, in Muleba district, adding that plans were under way to provide the service at Maruku and Izimbya Wards, in Bukoba Rural district.
The programme – supported by the Tanzanian government, the US government and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria – provides the service free of charge; male circumcision usually costs US$10-17. Tanzania has also trained nurses to perform the procedure, as the country has a shortage of doctors.
Three randomized controlled trials in Kenya, South Africa and Uganda provided evidence that male circumcision can reduce a man’s risk of becoming infected with HIV through heterosexual intercourse by as much as 60 percent.
According to the UN World Health Organization, Tanzania needs to circumcise some 1,373,271 men in order to achieve 80 percent prevalence, which would potentially avert 200,000 new HIV infections within five years.