Swaziland Increases Male Circumcision Efforts To Curb Spread of HIV
Swaziland is leading African countries in promoting male circumcision to curb the spread of HIV with the help of Israeli surgeons, the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports. The country began to promote male circumcision in response to studies showing that the procedure could reduce a man's risk of contracting HIV by up to 60%, according to the AP/Mercury News. According to United Nations modeling studies, male circumcision in sub-Saharan Africa could prevent 5.7 million new HIV cases and 3 million HIV/AIDS-related deaths over 20 years.
The World Health Organization and other agencies are providing technical support to help the Swazi government implement the circumcision campaign and increase the number of men receiving the procedure, the AP/Mercury News reports. Teams of Israeli surgeons, led by Inon Schenker of the Jerusalem AIDS Project, have trained 10 Swazi doctors on how to safely and efficiently perform the operation with limited resources. Swaziland is the only country in which the Israeli physicians have trained local health workers on the procedure, although other countries -- including Namibia, Rwanda and Zambia -- have asked the group to conduct similar training programs, according to the AP/Mercury News.
Some health workers are concerned that men might increase engaging in risky sexual behavior after undergoing circumcision because they believe the procedure makes them immune to HIV. In addition, mass male circumcision, which requires local anesthetic and a surgeon, will "add additional demands to overstretched facilities in a country which has only 170 doctors," according to the AP/Mercury News. The Swazi government and the Family Life Association of Swaziland, which runs a clinic that performs circumcisions, believe the benefits of the procedure will outweigh the costs. The circumcision campaign is one part of the Swaziland's HIV prevention strategy, the AP/Mercury News reports, noting that less than 10% of Swazi men have had an HIV test and that all men who request circumcision are offered the test.
According to the AP/Mercury News, 40% of pregnant women and 19% of the population in Swaziland are HIV-positive (Nullis, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 11/2).