Rwanda To Launch Mass Male Circumcision Program To Reduce Spread of HIV/AIDS
Rwanda recently announced that it plans to launch a male circumcision program as a way of reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, the New Times/AllAfrica.com reports. A Ministry of Health document said the program initially would target the army, police and higher education students (Musoni, New Times/AllAfrica.com, 9/20).
According to final data from two NIH-funded studies -- conducted in Uganda and Kenya and published in the Feb. 23 issue of the journal Lancet -- routine male circumcision could reduce a man's risk of HIV infection through heterosexual sex by 65%. The results of the Uganda and Kenya studies mirrored similar results of a study conducted in South Africa in 2005. In response to the findings, the World Health Organization and UNAIDS in March recommended the procedure as a way to help reduce transmission of the virus through heterosexual sex (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/7).
Innocent Nyaruhirira, Rwanda's HIV/AIDS minister, called on men in the country to receive the procedure at recommended medical centers from qualified medical workers. The program "would lose meaning if done unethically by just anyone because the intended goal would be missed since it would give rise to other problems resulting from complications," Nyaruhirira said, adding that the health ministry is in the process of upgrading the equipment in hospitals and health centers to enable them safely to perform the operation.
Nyaruhirira said that circumcision does not provide a "green light for promiscuity because it does not guarantee 100% prevention of the virus," adding, "Let no one understand that once circumcised, men can go ahead and indulge in unprotected sex."
According to the New Times/AllAfrica.com, Rwanda will be one of the beneficiaries of the financial assistance from the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (New Times/AllAfrica.com, 9/20). A delegation of U.S. health officials led by HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt last month announced that PEPFAR will provide money for male circumcision programs in some African countries (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/20). According to a government letter, the PEPFAR team in Rwanda is consulting with the government, donor agencies and local partners to determine the most appropriate response for the country concerning male circumcision programs (New Times/AllAfrica.com, 9/20).