Medical Male Circumcision promotion campaign launched

The Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in Pretoria hosted the launch of a medical male circumcision (MMC) promotion campaign at universities on 30 May 2013. The MMC campaign is an important element of an increasingly comprehensive HIV/AIDS programme in the higher education and training sector that is being driven by HEAIDS. Medical male circumcision is now considered an effective HIV prevention measure, which reduces the risk of acquiring HIV by up to 60%.

Evidence shows that the inner skin of the foreskin is more likely to absorb HIV than any other skin, as it is more prone to small tears during sex. There are also cells within the foreskin that attract the HI virus. However the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, who addressed the launch, was quick to stress that circumcision is not totally protective against HIV and that consistent condom use is necessary. The launch programme included a number of circumcisions undertaken at the TUT campus clinic, including by the  Minister, who is a qualified medical doctor.

Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, Director of HEAIDS, explained that where university clinics are fully equipped, students and staff may book in for the procedure by a trained health professional under safe conditions and will receive pre-counselling and proper follow up care. “Where universities do not have the facilities, students will be referred off campus to nearby government health facilities that are offering high volume services, supported by PEPFAR partners,” he said.

The promotion campaign enjoys the core support of the Department of Health and of Brothers for Life, a collaborative effort aimed at young men that involves over 100 partners working in the field of HIV prevention and health. Government already offers free VMMC services and Brothers for Life, led by Johns Hopkins Health and Education in South Africa (JHHESA) with funding from USAID/PEPFAR, has been driving a demand-creation strategy to support the roll-out of MMC in South Africa. Speaking specifically to young men, the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Mr Mduduzi Manana said unequal gender relations had to be addressed in any response to HIV. “Through this circumcision promotion campaign we are speaking to men to own responsibility for sexual and reproductive health,” he said. “Historically, our women have borne the greater responsibility for this,” he said.