SADC moots massive male circumcision

An “Expert Think Tank Meeting” on HIV prevention in high prevalence countries in Southern Africa, held in Maseru, Lesotho, recently, made the proposal together with four others, which have since been forwarded to national AIDS councils of the 14 member states of SADC.

The proposal came after realisation that multiple and concurrent partnerships by men and women with low consistent condom use, and in the context of low levels of male circumcision, were the key drivers of the epidemic in mainland southern Africa.

The AIDS epidemic has been described as the single greatest threat to SADC’s objective of sustainable and equitable economic growth and socio-economic development that would ensure poverty alleviation and, ultimately, its eradication.

“This epidemic, if unabated, will continue to erode the hard-won gains and intensify poverty and human suffering. Similarly, the level of the epidemic makes the attainment of many of the globally agreed Millennium Development Goals difficult,” said SADC executive secretary Tomaz Augusto Salomao.

Circumcision came onto the spotlight following confirmed extensive observational studies that showed the preventive benefits of the surgical removal of the male foreskin. Controlled trials carried out in certain areas in South Africa and Uganda, found that male circumcision has a 60 percent to 75 percent protective impact.

This confirmed extensive observational studies of discordant couples, population level correlations, cross-sectional surveys and other research that showed preventive benefits of male circumcision to be in the region of 50 percent to 75 percent, at least as high as that likely to be achieved by a vaccine and microbicide. It was, however, pointed out that circumcision would have to work hand in hand with other methods of prevention.

It was recommended that UNAIDS and the World Health Organisation disseminate male circumcision information packs to all national AIDS councils and ministries of health in the SADC member states, and facilitate country and regional level stakeholder consultations on the subject. A regional group would be established to advise, oversee and support the implementation of the male circumcision preparedness work plan.

The meeting recommended all national AIDS councils to undertake reviews of the evidence regarding HIV prevention, the drivers of the epidemic, policies, programmes and work plans, taking into account the evidence emerging from the SADC Expert Think Tank Meeting.

Concerned about the continuing high number of new infections and prevalence of HIV in mainland southern Africa, the SADC Secretariat, led by Executive Secretary Salomao, requested UNAIDS to organise a three-day Expert Think Tank Meeting to review the evidence around HIV prevention in the sub-region. ‘ Xinhua.

November 2006
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