Don't let circumcision fall off the radar this World Aids Day

NOVEMBER 9, 2015

This World Aids Day the spotlight should fall on Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) which according to experts could avert more than one million new HIV infections in South Africa by 2025.

Marina Rifkin, an epidemiologist working as the Public Health Specialist at CareWorks, an HIV management organisation says the 20 minute circumcision procedure reduces a man’s lifetime risk of contracting HIV by up to 60%.

“The National Department of Health aims to medically circumcise 4.3 million males by the end of December 2016. This translates to approximately 80% of uncircumcised HIV-negative males aged 15 – 49. It is therefore critical that more men and boys take up medical male circumcision services. Undergoing VMMC could help South Africa become an AIDS-free nation. That’s the epitome of responsible citizenship and personal activism,” she adds.

Since 2009, nearly 2 million men in South Africa have been medically circumcised.

VMMC is a routine, simple procedure conducted under local anaesthesia. It’s the lynchpin of a combination prevention approach that also includes correct and consistent condom use, regular testing for HIV, treatment of STIs, and initiation of antiretroviral therapy for eligible people living with HIV.

“None of these measures offers 100% protection, but used in concert they offer the closest we have to an HIV vaccine.”

VMMC also helps prevent other STIs – such as syphilis, genital warts and herpes – in men and women. VMMC also reduces the risk of penile cancer and it reduces a circumcised male’s partners’ risk of getting HPV and, as a result, cervical cancer. So VMMC has a health dividend beyond HIV and as a result must be implemented energetically, in concert with the rich traditions of our country.

“SA has made excellent progress inasmuch as HIV can now be managed as a chronic condition through ART, but that comes at a massive cost. By reducing the number of new infections – and thus the number of people requiring antiretroviral therapy (ART) – South Africa could free up billions for social development that addresses poverty, inequality and unemployment,” Ms Rifkin concludes.

To find out where you, or a friend, can undergo free VMMC: send a free ‘please call me’ to 0606 800 800 and a counsellor will get back to you. For more information about VMMC visit the VMMC media and information hub at www.mmcinfo.co.za.

Image: www.mobieg.co.za