Male circumcision progressing slowly

13 Apr 2016 18:00pm
WINDHOEK, 13 APR (NAMPA) - Namibia is struggling to reach its target of circumcising 80 per cent of the country’s man population by 2017.
Only 28 per cent of men in Namibia have so far been circumcised, Minister of Health and Social Services Bernard Haufiku said here on Wednesday.
The minister spoke while receiving television, radio and print material for the Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) and Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) mass media campaigns from the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology for dissemination to the public.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended VMMC for 14 African countries with high prevalence among general population and where the vast majority of men are not circumcised.
Statistics from the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) of 2014 shows that 260 000 Namibians were living with HIV in 2014.
It is projected that circumcising 80 per cent of men among the general population of such high priority countries could avert one in five HIV infections by 2025, hence the ministry’s target.
Haufiku said some of the other countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia have exceeded their targets, while Namibia has the lowest coverage at 28 per cent.
In 2014, 3 912 Namibian men were circumcised, while in 2015, 17 707 were circumcised.
“Despite that however, we need to redouble our efforts and not fail our people including our development partners, who support us technically and financially. Male circumcision is a once-off procedure and unlike Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART), it has no ongoing costs,” he stressed.
With regards to PMTCT, Haufiku said acceptance of HIV testing and counselling remains high among pregnant women receiving Antenatal Care (ANC) services, and is currently standing at more than 92 per cent.
He noted that lifelong treatment for HIV positive pregnant and breastfeeding women was introduced in 2014, saying that this approach has the highest benefit in reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, as well as keeping the mothers healthy.
Between April and December 2015, 94 per cent of all HIV positive pregnant women in public health facilities were receiving ART to prevent transmission of HIV to their children and also for their own sake.
Haufiku said during the same period, 4 678 children born to HIV-positive mothers were tested for HIV when they were six to eight weeks of age. An additional 2 196 had their first HIV test by 12 months of age.