An effort by health authorities to have men undergo safe male circumcision to reduce the chances of contracting HIV has been successful.
In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Standard, Mr. Conrad O. Ntsuape of the Ministry of Health said 55, 109 men responded by coming forward for this kind of surgery, adding that they are satisfied with the level of response from men and that the current achievement is 14.3 percent of 2016 target. He, however, said that the response could be better taking into account the capacity on the ground. He added that men aged 15-25 years are responding better than all others.
He said that the whole exercise of the five-year program is envisaged to cost P 1 45 million and the male circumcision is undertaken by well-trained health professionals. The actual operation takes 20-45 minutes.
Ntsuape said that the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, in collaboration with other partners, are currently conducting a targeted male circumcision school campaign, which started on 19 November to 14 December 2012.
He explained that government’s rationale for targeting the school youths for safe male circumcision services is because young people remain at the centre of HIV/AIDS epidemic in terms of rates of infections, vulnerability, impact and potential for positive change.
He says the importance of preventing HIV infections among young people to turn the tide of the epidemic has been a consistent message in all HIV/AIDS related commitments to date, including the commitment made the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS)1.
Ntsuape pointed out that the need for more concerted and scaled up prevention interventions is demonstrated by the unacceptably high incidence and prevalence of HIV. The further need to focus on prevention efforts targeting youth (15-29 years ) is supported by Second Botswana AIDS Impact Survey (BAIS 11, 2009) results, which indicate that there are low HIV prevalence rates in the age group 15-19 but with much higher rates amongst youth aged 25-29.
Ntsuape says this cohort (15 ÔÇô 29) accounts for nearly 60 percent of the population and this implies that there is a need to have critical focus on HIV prevention for the youth because of the numbers they constitute. In addition, this group provides a captive audience that can be easily motivated to undergo safe male circumcision.
Targeting the 15ÔÇô19 age group with SMC services in Junior and Secondary Schools would produce results which can turn the tide of HIV incidence in the country.
This approach is in line with the target they are focusing on the 13-20 year-olds.
The school campaign can help to capitalize on the holiday during which many circumcised school boys would have adequate time for healing says Ntsuape.