BY XOLISANI NCUBE
AT least 326 000 men were circumcised last year, representing 90% of the target set by the Health ministry, a senior government official has said.
Sinokuthemba Xaba, director of National Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision in the Health ministry yesterday told a strategic review meeting that more should be done, particularly targeting the older generation to encourage them to get circumcised.
“In relation to the targets, our achievement for last year was about 90% of our targets and this was in excess of 326 000 against a target of 350 000 circumcisions. This is by any measure very good given the history of the programme when we started in 2009. We used to have annual figures of 2 000,” Xaba said.
“The previous strategy contributed to the rapid scale up of the programme, and this new strategy that we are unveiling today will set the pace for the new focus in the programme which is geared on transitioning this initiative to sustainability. Sustainability in our HIV programmes is of critical importance as we need to ensure continued quality service provision, even in light of dwindling donor funding,” Xaba said
The programme was part of the response mechanism to the HIV and Aids pandemic and it has been proved through research that male circumcision reduces chances of infection by at least 60%.
Male circumcision also assists in reducing the risk of cancer and other sexually transmitted infections.
Since 2009, the programme has largely been funded by donors led by Population Service International and now government wants to take over and localise it for sustainability.
Xaba said under the new strategy, government would decentralise the programme to all districts and use established health centres, but train more personnel with traditional donors remaining in the background.
“This new strategy will span from this year, 2019 to 2021. The overwhelming and clear evidence of its impact in reducing chances of contracting HIV by 60% made us jump on board and adopt this initiative as we knew the HIV burden that was on our country’s shoulders. Although significant progress has been made in reducing incidence and prevalence rates in our country, much more concerted efforts are required,” Xaba said.
Zimbabwe has an estimated 1,3 million people living with HIV/Aids.
“Overall, new HIV infections have been declining, and currently stand at 0,47% among adults aged 15-64 years. Despite the decline in our HIV prevalence and incidence rates, there still remains the need for us to seriously continue to innovate as we seek to address this challenge in our nation,” Xaba said.
Since the beginning of the programme, 1,4 million men — the majority of them being in the 10-15 years age group — have been circumcised.