Mass circumcision drive pays off

Over 330,000 people have undergone male circumcision as an HIV/Aids prevention strategy in the country between 2010 to June this year, according to figures from the Ministry of Health.
A youth undergoes circumcision. A study shows that circumcision reduces the risk of contracting HIV by 60 per cent. (File)
A youth undergoes circumcision. A study shows that circumcision reduces the risk of contracting HIV by 60 per cent. (File)

Over 330,000 people have undergone male circumcision as an HIV/Aids prevention strategy in the country between 2010 to June this year, according to figures from the Ministry of Health.

The Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) has been monitoring the progress of male circumcision in the country through an electronic data reporting system, officials say.

Dr Placidie Mugwaneza, of RBC HIV/Aids division, told The New Times that this was achieved through implementation of several strategies including provision of medical male circumcision kits, decentralising circumcision services to all health centres across the country, as well as carrying out several sensitisation campaigns.

She added that the scale up of non-surgical methods as a simpler and quicker approach in the provision of medical male circumcision services had also played a significant role in increasing the number of people undergoing the procedure.

Non-surgical male circumcision (also known as PrePex) was launched in November last year after the government received approval from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to roll out the procedure to help curb HIV/Aids infection.

At the time of the launch, government had a target of having at least 700,000 men aged between 15 and 49 years to undergo the exercise by the end of 2016.

Beginning next month, RBC intends to initiate early infant medical male circumcision as a long term strategy against of HIV/Aids prevention, officials say.

A new study by the University of Illinois in Chicago showed that circumcised men not only lower their chances of contracting HIV/Aids by as much as 60 per cent but are also less likely to engage in unprotected sex.

The study, released on Monday this week, involved over 3,000 men aged between 18 and 35 in western Kenya who had been briefed about the option of circumcision and advised on safe sex and testing for HIV/Aids.

The study had been prompted by some experts who had warned that circumcised men, believing that they were shielded were very likely to become more promiscuous after the operation and less likely to use condoms.

Following the findings, the group’s lead scientist and researcher, Nelli Westercamp, said countries that have been reluctant in implementing medical male circumcision should fast-track the programmes.

The World Health Organisation and Unaids have recommended the procedure as a voluntary prevention option, to be used along with the condom.

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