South Africa is set to commence massive medical male circumcision as part of an overall national strategy to reduce HIV infection among men in the country.
Already the Gauteng Health Department has set a target to circumcise more than 125,000 men by March 2012.
To reach its target of circumcising 125 000 men, the department has announced that it would increase the number of public health facilities offering medical male circumcision.
This development is coming against a backdrop of a national communication survey on HIV/AIDS conducted inSouth Africain 2009 which found that 15 per cent of adults across all age groups believed that circumcised men do not need to use condom.
The South African Medical Association Human Rights, Law and Ethics Committee had expressed serious concern that not enough scientifically-based evidence was available to confirm that circumcisions prevented HIV contraction and that the public at large was influenced by incorrect and misrepresented information.
The committee said it did not support circumcision to prevent HIV transmission.
But Professor James McIntyre, Executive Director of Anova Health Institute, said circumcising men has a ripple effect as circumcision doesn’t only protect the men.
“Medical male circumcision is yet another step in eradicating the virus. The more boys we can protect, the more women we protect along the way, the more babies we protect, the more we’re going to have communities that will eventually be HIV free”, he says.
“For every five circumcisions that are performed, we potentially prevent one HIV infection. So, the more circumcisions we perform the more new HIV infections we prevent”, says Dr Ntlotleng Mabena, Operations Manager at the Centre for HIV and AIDS Prevention Studies (CHAPS), which runs the Zola Clinic Medical Male Circumcision Centre with the Health Department.
As the debate rages, Ntombi Mekgwe, provincial MEC for Health and Social development said the province has decided that all male babies born in the province’s health facilities must be circumcised soon after birth.
“This will, obviously, happen with the consent of their mothers because you can’t do it without permission. That’s why we will avail information to pregnant mothers who attend ante-natal care services about the advantages of circumcision. It starts with a mother because when you empower a woman, you empower the nation”, she says.