More than 3 million South African men have been medically circumcised since 2008, according to the latest Human Science Research Council (HSRC) HIV household survey. As the country continues to promote voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) as an HIV prevention method, those working in the HIV sector like Pule Goqo say campaigns have not only helped to prevent new HIV infection but also may have reached some men with HIV counselling and testing services that may have otherwise never tested for HIV.
Large-scale studies from Uganda, Kenya and South Africa found that MMC helped reduce a man’s risk of contracting HIV via vagina sex by about 60 percent. Men looking to undergo MMC in South Africa are routinely offered HIV counselling and testing, which Goqo said has helped the country’s HIV testing campaign reach men it may have otherwise missed.
“The (number) of men testing has increased enormously since the inception of VMMC due to the fact that some of the benefits including knowing your status,” said Goqo, director for the Tshwane local non-governmental organisation Heavens Defence Force Ministry, which partners with the national Brothers for Life campaign to help reduce men’s HIV risk.
Gift Nkomo is the Gauteng provincial coordinator for youth development organisation Zakheni Training and Development Centre based in Soshanguve north of Pretoria. Nkomo said he has also noticed an increase in the number of Tshwane men who seem to be testing not only for HIV but other illnesses.
“We have seen an upward trend in the volumes of men coming for testing not only and other ailments such as sugar diabetes and tuberculosis,” Nkomo told OurHealth.
Nationally, HIV testing services continue to struggle to reach men. The latest HSRC survey found that women reported an HIV testing rate almost 10 percentage points higher than men. The survey recommended that HIV counselling and testing services continue to be strengthened at venues outside typical clinics including mobile testing units as well as that conducted by trained traditional healers.
Already about 13 percent of those who reported having been tested for HIV in the HSRC survey said that this had happened outside a traditional clinic at for instance a youth clinic or through mobile testing.
According to Goqo, more men could be reached if VMMC programmes were rolled out in the country’s prisons.