PEPFAR To Begin Providing Funds for Male Circumcision Programs in Some African Countries, Officials Say
The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief will begin providing money for male circumcision programs in some African countries in an effort to reduce the spread of HIV, a delegation of U.S. health officials led by HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt announced on Sunday while in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Washington Post reports. According to the Post, PEPFAR focus countries have been invited to request program funding to increase access to the procedure (Timberg, Washington Post, 8/20). Leavitt and the officials are on a 10-day tour of four African countries to highlight programs funded by PEPFAR and the President's Malaria Initiative. They will visit Mozambique, Rwanda and Tanzania after their stop in South Africa (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/17).
Kent Hill, an assistant administrator for USAID, said recent research indicating that routine male circumcision could reduce significantly a man's risk of HIV infection has demonstrated that the procedure is "going to be one of the major interventions in the international arsenal" against HIV/AIDS, the Post reports. According to Hill, initial investment in circumcision services would be a small portion of program budgets, with funding in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for individual countries. He added that funding likely would increase to be "an important part" of PEPFAR programs in coming months and years, the Post reports (Washington Post, 8/20).
U.S. Officials Praise South Africa's HIV/AIDS Program
The delegation on Sunday also praised South Africa's new five-year plan that aims by 2011 to reduce the number of new HIV cases in the country by 50% and to provide at least 80% of HIV-positive people with access to antiretroviral treatment, the AP/Washington Post reports. South Africa has "constructed a good plan," Leavitt said, adding, "Now it must be executed in a way that makes good on the prospects it offers and the hope it can provide" (Jacobson, AP/Washington Post, 8/20).