Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Political talk does not lessen demand for Medical Male Circumcision in Uganda

By Esther Nakkazi

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni's negative talk about voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) is loud and clear, but Ugandans are not listening, as they continue to demand for the HIV intervention. 

In 2015, Uganda will carry out one million voluntary medical male circumcisions, if funding is available.  If that momentum is maintained, every year, all Ugandan men will undergo operation Abraham at some point. Then we shall have a circumcised nation, which is non muslim.

Museveni was a guest of honour in Fort portal at the World Aids Day (1st December 2014) and in his speech he undermined the importance of male circumcision as an HIV prevention intervention. He made comparisons between Bakonjo and Bagisu, tribes who have traditionally circumcised their men but still do not have the lowest HIV prevalence rates in the country. 

Museveni also mentioned that 'those who circumcise could die’.

Truth Tellers, who are a unified African voice speaking the truth of VMMC, as an HIV prevention intervention, say they want to win Museveni over, however, his talk has so far not lessened the demand and uptake of voluntary medical male circumcision.

Records from the Ministry of Health, show that in 2011, Uganda performed only 57, 132 safe male circumcisions and in 2013 there were 801, 678 procedures. In 2014 over 900,000 procedures have been done.

Dr. Barbara Marjorie Nanteza the Coordinator, AIDS Control Program, Ministry of Health, Uganda, believes that if funding is made available, Uganda will perform over 1,000,000 million medical male circumcisions in 2015.

Uganda has a population of 36 million people. Over 49 percent of these are male. If at least a million a circumcised, per year, then all Ugandan men will at some point undergo operation Abraham.

“Most Ugandans know the consequences of HIV/AIDS, so they seek for protection through SMC, which is so far the most effective and it is provided as an HIV prevention package,” said Dr. Nanteza. 

Truth Tellers, say they need to win Museveni over, even though some feel they have already talked themselves hoarse to both politicians and the public about its benefits.

Research backs it up too. It has shown that men who circumcise, reduce their risk of becoming infected with HIV heterosexually, by approximately 60 percent.

“We have done our best to provide evidence to all the people including all the top politicians plus our President all these years,” said Dr. Nanteza.

“We really need to do something to win the voice of the President of Uganda to promote VMMC, or at least stop him from campaigning against the service,” said Stephen Mugamba who works with Rakai Health Sciences Program.

Truth Tellers stand for accelerated roll out of VMMC for HIV prevention in Africa.

“It is unfortunate the President of Uganda is speaking against Male circumcision. I wish we had a way of looking at circumcision from a cultural angle,” said an official from Kydesa (Kenya Youth Education and Development support Association) Rainbow community.

“ Changing a community culture might be very challenging. It requires deeper evidence that focuses on benefits of foreskin and circumcision as an option for HIV prevention,” he said.

Truth Tellers, now want to target the First Lady, Janet Museveni to champion voluntary medical male circumcision in Uganda.

“The president may have his misgivings about the strategy, however, it is great that they are not affecting the demand for the service. However, targeted advocacy may help. The first lady may also be targeted as a champion and may get to the president-in the spirit of female involvement. This is if she believes," said Martin a Truth Teller about VMMC.


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