HIV and AIDS HIV Prevention Men's Health

Rolling out medical male circumcision in Gauteng Living with AIDS # 484

Written by Khopotso Bodibe

As part of the country’€™s effort to roll out medical male circumcision in a bid to reduce HIV infection among men, the Gauteng Health Department has set itself a target to circumcise about 125 000 men by March next year.

d86087a4f7bf.jpgTo reach its target of circumcising 125 000 men, the Gauteng Health Department has announced that it will increase the number of public health facilities offering medical male circumcision.

‘€œMale medical circumcision is now being offered at 22 government hospitals in Gauteng. It is also offered at 10 clinics. This number will increase to a further eight additional clinics by the end of March 2012. These clinics will be Hillbrow, Itireleng, Chiawelo, Lenasia South, Soshanguve 3, Levi Mbatha in Sebokeng, Refilwe and Fochville clinics’€, says provincial MEC for Health and Social Development, Ntombi Mekgwe.

Mekgwe said that the province has even gone further. It has been decided that all male babies born in the province’€™s public health facilities will be circumcised soon after birth.

‘€œThis will, obviously, happen with the consent of their mothers because you can’€™t do it without permission. That’€™s why we will avail information to pregnant mothers who attend ante-natal care services about the advantages of circumcision. It starts with a mother because when you empower a woman, you empower the nation’€, she says.

The MEC was speaking at the official launch of Zola clinic’€™s medical male circumcision centre in Soweto.

‘€œThis clinic has the capacity to conduct up to 150 circumcisions per day. You know what we are telling our managers in our health facilities? Even if they administer, at least, three per day it would make a difference. That’€™s the message we are sending out there’€, she said about the centre.  

Since it started operating in November last year, the Zola Clinic Medical Male Circumcision Centre has circumcised about 8 000 men between the ages of 15 and 45, which makes it the busiest circumcision centre in the province. The rollout of medical male circumcision follows research results which showed that the intervention has a protective effect of up to 60% against HIV infection in men.

‘€œFor every five circumcisions that are performed, we potentially prevent one HIV infection. So, the more circumcisions we perform the more new HIV infections we prevent’€, says Dr Ntlotleng Mabena, Operations Manager at the Centre for HIV and AIDS Prevention Studies (CHAPS), which runs the Zola Clinic Medical Male Circumcision Centre with the Health Department.

Professor James McIntyre, Executive Director of Anova Health Institute, says circumcising men has a ripple effect as circumcision doesn’€™t only protect the men.    

‘€œMedical male circumcision is yet another step in eradicating the virus. The more boys we can protect, the more women we protect along the way, the more babies we protect, the more we’€™re going to have communities that will eventually be HIV free’€, he says.  

However, medical male circumcision on its own will not win the battle against HIV, as Wendy Benzerga of the United States’€™ Agency for International Development (USAID), says.

‘€œMedical male circumcision alone is not enough to turn the tide of this epidemic. So, we must work together to work with communities to reduce the numbers of partners, to increase condom use. And to have safer sexual behaviour along with medical male circumcision, we are convinced that we will be able to turn the tide of the epidemic in South Africa’€, Benzerga says.

MEC for Health and Social Development in Gauteng, Ntombi Mekgwe, agrees.

‘€œThe Abstain, Be faithful and Condomise message remains as relevant as ever. Being circumcised is not a licence to irresponsible sexual behaviour. It is not a licence to multiple sex partners’€, she says.

About the author

Khopotso Bodibe