Zim circumcision 'thrusting' ahead

HARARE - Zimbabwe's male circumcision (MC) drive is throbbing ahead amid revelations that 15 134 men went under the blade in a five-week period to May 11, Health ministry officials have said.

Sinokuthemba Xaba, the programme’s co-ordinator in the Health and Child Welfare (MoHCW) ministry, said the record turnout also surpassed their targets.

“The success of the campaign is mainly attributed to improved awareness of the benefits of medical male circumcision and increased number of health facilities across the country offering the service,” he said, adding Henry Madzorera’s department — together with its partners — was also working to increase the number of doctors and support staff to provide MC.

On the other hand, Aids and tuberculosis (TB) unit director Owen Mugurungi said while there were a number of devices to perform this essential service, only the prepex was ready for use in Zimbabwe.

“There are a number of adult male circumcision devices… (such as the Tara Klamp and Shang-ring), but the prepex is the only device… that has gone through the safety, efficacy and acceptability studies and has now been certified by the WHO for use,” he told the Daily News last week.

“We are actually excited that the Prepex, which is a non-surgical procedure, meets the basic safety
requirements and is therefore officially recommended for use in Zimbabwe,” he added.

With sufficient funding, President Robert Mugabe’s government hopes to circumcise nearly 1,2 million men by 2015 as experts say MC has a wide variety of benefits, including a 60 percent reduction in chances of contracting HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, improved hygiene, protection against penile and cervical cancer in one’s partner.

Currently, Zimbabwean facilities still largely use forceps, but this should end with the roll out of the American device soon, in a development expected to enable more people to easily access safer MC service.
“….have introduced voluntary medical male circumcision in new districts now and are aiming to have all districts offering this service by end of July. We want to ensure that every male in Zimbabwe who is 13 years and above can access this service,” Mugurungi said.

However, circumcised men are still encouraged to use condoms and desist from multiple sexual relations, as part of the county’s HIV/Aids control measures.

About a week ago, the MoHCW Aids and TB unit head said Zimbabwe was not a “circumcising nation” and people needed adequate information, if not some form of re-education, on the benefits of this programme.

As well as plans to introduce neonatal MC, Mugurungi said — resources permitting — the country would also review the age limit for circumcision from 15 to 49 to even those above that limit.

With three MC campaigns a year, the Harare administration runs what is probably one of the most successful programmes in Africa, as service standards are also through the static and outreach centres which provide this service.

As MC refers to the removal of the foreskin, the introduction of such non-surgical devices as prepex is expected to aid future campaigns by covering more areas, Xaba added.

Voluntary MC is provided for free at designated health facilities in Zimbabwe and mainly with the support of the Zimbabwe government. - Staff Writer

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