Harare – Zimbabwe had the safest voluntary medical male circumcision programme among the 13 countries undergoing the programme in the region, with just 1% or fewer adverse events recorded in the past five years, a Ministry of Health and Child Care official revealed on Sunday.
Sinokhuthemba Xaba, the programme’s co-ordinator in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, said at a media forum in Harare that the country had achieved much better than the acceptable World Health Organisation limits of 3%.
Xaba said the country had managed, as of last year, to circumcise more than 600 000 males, which was more than 50% of the targeted 1 million people.
He said the first three years from 2009 were pilot programmes, adding that the country was keeping pace with other countries with which it celebrated reaching the 50% target last December.
“We are scaling up this year and hope to have circumcised 80% by 2017 and we hope that 212 000 new infections could be avoided because of circumcision, and HIV prevalence will actually come down to about 12.4%.”
Xaba said savings that would be realised because of circumcision would be about $1 billion (R14 billion), arising from the potential cost of care of people with HIV, covering their tests and medication for their entire lives.
He said the government was also collaborating with communities that already had circumcision programmes by providing safer methods of circumcision without necessarily interfering with their traditional rites that went with the circumcision ceremonies.
“We set up camps and the ministry provides tents for circumcisions. For a purely Tshangani area, where even ministry officials are not allowed, despite having worked with them for years, they continue doing their traditional teachings, so we only do the HIV testing, circumcising – they do their traditional rites and we do not interfere with the rites, which is the arrangement we have with them.”
He said the only challenge was that these groups only had circumcision ceremonies when they had bumper harvests as these were huge gatherings that required lots of food.
African News Agency