At least 25,000 men underwent circumcision in Iringa – a region with the highest HIV prevalence in Tanzania – under a special campaign to prevent transmission of HIV/Aids implemented by the government with the financial support from the USAID.
USAID HIV Prevention Team leader Laura Skolnik said yesterday that unlike other parts of the country, male circumcision was previously not a routine health practice in Iringa where latest statistics suggested that only one-third of men had undergone circumcision.
She said research had revealed that circumcision was an effective HIV-prevention strategy, reducing heterosexual men’s risk of acquiring HIV by 60 per cent.
“When used in combination with other HIV prevention measures, including condoms, partner reduction and abstinence, circumcision is an important addition to men’s HIV-prevention options,” said Skolnik, adding:
“Since these HIV-prevention activities began in Iringa in October 2009, more than 25,000 circumcisions have been performed, helping to avert nearly 6,000 new infections, according to program managers.”
She said the project was being carried out in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Tanzania with funding from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
The programme is being implemented by a US NGO – Jhpiego Tanzania UNDER the US Agency for International Development’s global flagship Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP), informed Skolnik.
“The Iringa male circumcision programme is of the highest calibre and has moved Tanzania’s HIV prevention efforts forward in ways not previously seen,” she said.
One of the client, (name withheld) who was the programme’s 25,000th client, said although he had considered circumcision in the past, he didn’t know where he could access the service for free.
Despite his interest in circumcision, he said, he had no one to talk to about pursuing the procedure. The client however was knowledgeable of the benefits of circumcision. He said, “I understand that male circumcision helps prevent sexually transmitted infections and also HIV, but I like the hygiene benefits,” he said.
Earlier, Iringa regional medical officer Dr Ezekial Mpuya had said in June, July and August of this year, his region would embark on another circumcision campaign this time targeting an additional 20,000 adolescent boys and men.
He said the campaign would be advertised widely over the next few weeks. “This program will help us reduce HIV in Iringa,” said Dr Mpuya, adding, “Male circumcision services will be available at 24 sites across the region during this period, and we hope that the people of Iringa will take advantage of this free and safe service.”