The government has revised the Safe Male Circumcision target from 480 000 to 335 000 men.
The initial age that government had set for men eligible for circumcision has also been revised from 0 to 49 years old to 14 to 39 years.
In an effort to curb the spread of HIV and contribute to the national target of zero new infections by 2016, the government had set a target of 80 percent or 480,000 of HIV negative men to be circumcised by 2016, the national Vision year.
Speaking at a media briefing at the African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships (ACHAP) office on Thursday this week, the National AIDS Coordinating Agency (NACA) Coordinator, Richard Matlhare, said thus far they have circumcised 91 000 men out of their 335 000 target, which represents 23 percent of the newly revised set target.
“We have challenges in terms of getting the numbers. When it started, it was slow but we are gradually catching up,” he said. Matlhare revealed that their efforts were bearing fruit as they had targeted to circumcise 11 000 students during the vacation but managed to circumcise 13, 000.
On misconception that circumcised men cannot get infected when they engage in unprotected sex, Matlhare warned that circumcision “is 60 percent protection and thus leaves 40 percent chances of being infected. Even when you are circumcised you should stick to protection.”
Responding to concerns that behavioural change as an intervention to prevent HIV infection seemed not to bring the desired results, Matlhare said interventions in reducing HIV infection involved a combination of prevention measures among them circumcision and ARVS which have proved to bring the desired results.
“Some of these interventions are biomedical. This could include adhering to treatment, living certain life style. For instance, if we put people earlier on ARVs chances of infecting others are reduced,” he said.
For her part, ACHAP Chairperson, Joy Phumaphi, observed that health is behaviour based.
“To become healthy you have to exhibit health seeking behaviour. If you make sure that you test and consistently know your status, you are exhibiting a health seeking behaviour,” she said.
She added that “you cannot say I can have many partners because I’m using a condom or I cannot use a condom because I have one partner. Every situation in health is driven by behaviour”.
“We need to seek health behaviour that is going to protect you,” she said. Phumaphi also called on the media to desist from negative reporting as far as issues related to HIV/AIDS are concerned.
“You should assume responsibility for behavioural change and responsible reporting important because you have power to save lives,” she said.
Earlier on, Phumaphi revealed that numerous studies have proved that circumcision reduces chances of one getting HIV infected, adding that ACHAP has focussed heavily on Safe Male Circumcision.
“The circumcision programme has shown promising improvements in meeting its annual targets. Since the beginning of the year, we have so far performed over 23 000 successful circumcisions,” she said.
The former Health Minister had kind words for men who have circumcised and commended “all the young men who have taken this important step to protect themselves, their partners and the community. They are the warriors and heroes in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Botswana”.
ACHAP Chief Executive Officer, Dr Jerome Mafeni, said his organisation is committed to ensuring that “yesterday’s gains are not lost but increased and sustained”.
ACHAP, he said, will be focused, strategic, systematic and uncompromising in its pursuit of measurable results and great achievement.
“Since the beginning of the year to date we have performed over 23 000 successful circumcisions contributing over 70 percent to the national target. We are currently piloting the Treatment Optimisation Project in Tutume District,” he said.