Kenya Launches Male Circumcision Program
The Kenyan Ministry of Health on Monday launched a voluntary male circumcision program as part of the country's national HIV prevention strategy, the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation reports.
The ministry has allocated one billion Kenyan shillings, or about $13.2 million, for the program over the next two years (Achienga, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, 11/24). In addition, Family Health International has received an $18.5 million, five-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to establish the Male Circumcision Consortium in partnership with the Kenyan government, the University of Illinois at Chicago and EngenderHealth. The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief also is supporting the program. The consortium will conduct research and training on the safest and most effective ways to provide male circumcision as part of an HIV prevention strategy.
The consortium's members have consulted officials from the World Health Organization to ensure the consortium's objectives are in line with WHO and UNAIDS recommendations on male circumcision. The consortium will support the Kenyan government and local partners to develop and implement the national male circumcision strategy. It also will expand a research and training center in Kisumu, Kenya, to train providers, increase capacity of health facilities and monitor outcomes. In addition, the consortium aims to address misunderstandings about male circumcision (FHI release, 11/24).
The program will be launched in six districts in Kenya's Nyanza province before being expanded to the rest of the country (Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, 11/24). The initiative aims to reduce HIV prevalence in Kenya by 60%, Public Health and Sanitation Minister James Gesami said Monday at the program launch. Gesami also emphasized the importance of ensuring that all circumcisions are performed in sanitary conditions. "Traditional circumcisers should use septic techniques by not using one knife on several individuals," he said.
WHO Country Representative David Okello said that circumcision should not be seen as an excuse to practice risky behaviors. "Circumcision should be promoted along with other HIV prevention strategies including safer sex, reduction in the number of sexual partners, plus the correct and consistent use of condoms," Okello said (Ndong'a, Capital News, 11/24).
Gesami added that the health ministry will provide no-cost counseling to couples on the benefits of male circumcision to prevent HIV transmission as part of the program. According to the Daily Nation, two-thirds of HIV-positive adults in Kenya are married or in a relationship, and one spouse is HIV-positive in 10% of marriages. Peter Cherutich, head of the national task force on circumcision, said that counseling is critical for couples and that women "have to be involved for the full benefits [of the procedure] to be felt" (Ngirachup, Daily Nation, 11/24).