Govt expands circumcision drive

HARARE - Government has expanded the circumcision drive by casting the net to boys as young as 12 years to meet a 2015 target of 1, 2 million circumcised males.

Previously circumcision was being performed on males from the age of 15 and above.

Aids and TB director in the Health ministry Owen Mugurungi said authorities are collaborating towards achieving the national target.

“The best thing would be to circumcise neo-natals (infants) but for now, those who are 12 years and above, can be circumcised until we get more resources,” said Mugurungi.

He was speaking during an HIV update meeting for journalists hosted by National Aids Council in Chinhoyi recently.

On allegations that the procedure has left some men deformed or dead, Mugurungi said circumcision is conducted by well-trained professionals who take due diligence.

“Usually cases that we treat or correct are those of people who would have failed to abstain from sex for the prescribed six weeks. That is why we constantly advice people to abstain because besides disturbing the healing process, they are also at great risk of contracting HIV,” he said.

Mugurungi said circumcising infants within the first 10 weeks of birth gives the best results as the surgical procedure, which researchers say can reduce the chances of sexual transmission of HIV by 60 percent, heals fast and is less likely to be disturbed.

“It is also convenient for mothers as they can get it done before discharge. The children will also suffer less urinary tract infections so we encourage mothers to talk to their partners during pregnancy,” he said.

Mugurungi maintained that the ministry was still following due process for the feasibility and acceptability studies for infants.

According to him, six out of 10 of the estimated 400 000 babies born in Zimbabwe every year are male.

That translates to slightly over 200 000 babies who have to be circumcised every year.

Zimbabwe anticipates that circumcision will prevent 42 percent of all new infections between 2015 and 2025 if 80 percent of males in the country are circumcised.

About 70 000 circumcisions had been performed since the inception of the programme in 2009 and November last year. - Wendy Muperi

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