New weapon to fight AIDS

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has set a target to have 25 million men across 14 countries in Africa circumcised by 2020. The countries include South Africa.

The plan came to light recently at the occasion of the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) committing to providing $24 million to accelerate medical male circumcision (MMC) efforts in South Africa over the next five years. The funding boosts South Africa’s fight against the spread of the epidemic.

“This effectively means that the annual number of medical male circumcisions performed in these regions must more than double to attain the target. Achieving 80% medical male circumcision prevalence among sexually active men in the next few years could avert 3,4 million HIV infections by 2025,” said Rachael Rawlinson, chief operations officer at CareWorks, an HIV management organisation.

She said their funding would be allocated to areas such as KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Gauteng, where the risk is high.

Rawlinson said that most of the countries launched their MMC programmes in 2008 and targets had been based on the level of HIV risk that each country faced.

“Even though South Africa’s target was among the highest, the results are very positive.

“Medical male circumcision has been widely promoted as a way to curb the HIV infection rate, as it has been proven to reduce a man’s lifetime risk of HIV acquisition through heterosexual sex by up to 60%.

“Soon South Africa will reach a point where people on antiretroviral treatment will outstrip new HIV infections, which signifies a turning point in the HIV epidemic. MMC plays a critical role in reaching this turning point and will continue to show public health benefits for years to come.”

She said more than 2,3 million men in the country have been circumcised thus far. According to Rawlinson, total circumcisions performed in 2015 stood at 2 347 227.

“It is considered a tremendous feat in the fight against HIV,” she said.

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