GOVERNMENT has bemoaned limited demand for voluntary medical male circumcision half a decade after its introduction.
Owen Mugurungi, director AIDS and TB Unit in the ministry of Health, said thousands of men are still avoiding the nip owing to false beliefs surrounding the procedure — making the fulfilment of national targets a tall order which demands community involvement.
“The programme experiences limited demand in some areas due to religious, cultural issues as well as some misconceptions regarding male circumcision,” said Mugurungi.
“The responsibility is not for the ministry alone. If we rally behind male circumcision as part of the HIV prevention strategy we have in Zimbabwe, we will jointly be able to, not only meet the target, but influence the reduction in HIV incidence”.
A number of weird stories about circumcision have widely been circulated in Zimbabwe.
Recently, the ministry allayed fears that foreskins are being illicitly sold to the global cosmetics industry and traditional healers which are rife in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe launched the programme in 2009 to circumcise 1, 3 million young men in eight years in an effort to reduce HIV infections — which stand at
57 000 annually.
As of June, a total of 98 245 males aged 13 years and above got circumcised against an annual target of 217 800.
Since the programme’s inception in 2009, a total of 302 555 males have been circumcised against a 2017 target of 1, 3 million men.
A report by UNAids and the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the risk of HIV infection among men could be reduced by 60 percent.
Currently, the country has
1, 2 million people living with the virus. Only half of them are on anti-retroviral therapy.
Mugurungi said government nevertheless remains hopeful that targets will be met.
“The demand for MC (male circumcision) has steadily been increasing. Basing on what we have achieved since beginning of the year, the support from our partners and the fact that we managed to attain 98 percent of our 2013 target, we have the capacity to meet our targets,” he said.
According to Mugurungi, government has decentralised services to district level, increased human resources, opened new cites, improved on outreach and introduced the non-surgical method (PrePex) as it races against time to meet the targets.
Resources required for rapid scale up of the programme, logistical purposes such as transport for outreach activities are still on the low, Mugurungi said. — Wendy Muperi