Politicking blunts Zim's circumcision drive

HARARE - Zimbabwe's efforts to circumcise nearly one million men by 2015 are in jeopardy, as the country’s health authorities are frustrating the use of alternative devices and methods to the key programme.

 This comes amid indications that the vital medical procedure may not only result in a 60 percent reduction in new HIV/Aids infections, but Harare can also notch up net savings of up to $20 billion in anti-retroviral treatment or therapy in the short-term.

 While the Health ministry permanent secretary Gerald Gwinji was unavailable for comment at the weekend, government insiders say a South African-based company Tara Klamp’s offer to augment the process was hitting a brick-wall as officials in the department preferred a western-backed operator known as Pre-Pex.

“There has been an offer before Henry Madzorera’s Health ministry for a cheaper and equally-reliable male circumcision device, but one cannot simply understand the indifference and sloth to embrace alternatives in our collective efforts to deliver on this crucial social project,” they said, adding self-interest might have been at the centre of this contrived indolence.

“Frankly, some guys in Gwinji and Madzorera’s office have not been diligent enough, and their principals have to come clean on this state of affairs or laissez-faire attitude. And l don't know what one has to do to try and provide workable alternatives in our cash-starved nation.”

Even, though, Tara Klamp had been given the go-ahead at government level mid last year — under efforts, which also included Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe — it is incomprehensible how the device has not being given a run when the current operator was struggling to meet targets.

With the recommendation for the device coming after a Council of Ministers presentation then, the deputy Movement for Democratic Change leader — a top figure in a global women’s coalition against HIV/Aids — reportedly supported the bid on the basis that enhanced male circumcision could also help reduce cervical cancer in women.

 Under use in countries such as South Africa (SA), the World Health Organisation (WHO)-approved device and technology has also been embraced in neighbouring Mozambique — which is due to unleash a $50 million pilot project — and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

 Fronted by Tariq Yussuf’s Intratrek (Private) Limited — the sole distributor of the Asian-made product in Africa — the product has not only proven to be competent enough for use or application on the continent, but the Tara Klamp plan comes with a $100 million roll-out funding offer or backing.

“Our company is ready to immediately start the rollout (of the Tara Klamp) and with the first funding promise of $100 million, we will circumcise no less than two million people by the end of next year,” the South African-based entrepreneur said by telephone from Germany.

“With this product, it takes four minutes to complete the process of circumcision and we have committed to training your nurses, and doctors for the use of this product,” said Yussuf, adding he had secured quite a number of donors to support the project across Africa.

Efforts to secure comments from Intratrek Zimbabwe director Wicknell Chivayo were unsuccessful, as he was said to be in Dubai on business.

In SA’s KwaZulu-Natal province, for instance, Intratrek has been given a near R50 million contract to help with the HIV/Aids fight  — under a programme, which also has the endorsement of King Goodwill Zwelithini.

As Zimbabwe’s male circumcision programme stutters due to an unavailability of resources and other necessities such as field work staff, and other professionals, only a 100 000-plus have accessed this service.

Ever since the mass market campaign was launched in the country about four years ago, it has always been dominated by players such as Population Services International and other partners.

Prior to the latest programme, male circumcision had only been available at private health institutions and mainly for reasons other than diseases control. - Staff Writer

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