SA gets multi-million dollar injection for MMC campaigns

The US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has committed to providing $24 million to accelerate medical male circumcision (MMC) efforts in South Africa over the next five years.

The funding comes as welcome news in the wake of World AIDS Day (1 December).

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%, which in a country like ours – that has nearly 7 million people living with HIV – cannot be ignored.

Rachael Rawlinson, Chief Operations Officer at CareWorks says their funding will be allocated to areas such as KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Gauteng where the risk is high.

Rawlinson says CareWorks, the Department of Health and other MMC partners have made a tremendous difference to the lives of the more than 2.3 million men who opted to be cut, which is considered a tremendous feat in the fight against HIV.

“Soon SA 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,” says Rawlinson.

The next five years, will see the National MMC programme adopt a more ambitious approach to fast-track medical male circumcision among HIV-negative males between the ages of 15 and 49 in an effort to achieve the new target.

By 2020, the WHO wants 25 million men across the 14 priority countries in Africa to be circumcised. This effectively means that the annual number of MMCs performed in these regions must more than double to attain the target. Achieving 80% MMC prevalence among sexually active men in the next few years, could avert 3.4 million HIV infections by 2025.

“Most of the countries launched their MMC programmes in 2008, and targets were based on the level of HIV risk that each country faced. Even though SA’s target was among the highest, the results are very positive,” remarks Rawlinson.

Here’s how each country fared:

African country Total cuts by 2015 % progress towards targets
1.     Botswana

2.     Ethiopia

3.     Kenya

4.     Lesotho

5.     Malawi

6.     Mozambique

7.     Namibia

8.     Rwanda

9.     South Africa

10.  Swaziland

11.  Uganda

12.  Tanzania

13.  Zambia

14.  Zimbabwe

156 411

60 929

1 134 170

110 701

266 176

757 218

36 779

592 841

2 347 227

83 429

2 703 651

1 661 676

1 173 107

601 276

45

152

132

29

13

71

11

34

54

45

64

121

60

31

 

Medical male circumcision is one of the most common procedures performed worldwide and offers a plethora of health benefits, including added protection against other sexually transmitted infections.

Rawlinson says medical male circumcision remains a very personal decision, but the health advantages far outweigh the cons.

To join the millions of South African men who have already taken a stand against HIV, by having been cut, send a ‘please call me’ to 0606 800 800 and a CareWorks counsellor will contact you with more information about medical male circumcision and where you can have the procedure done.