Male circumcision drive intensifies

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Pascalinah Kabi

AN international non-profit health organisation, Jhpiego will intensify its voluntary male medical circumcision (VMMC) programme starting tomorrow in Hlotse in the Leribe district.

VMMC is the surgical removal of the foreskin – the retractable fold of tissue that covers the head of the penis.

The inner aspect of the foreskin is highly susceptible to HIV infections, making the surgical procedure an additional HIV prevention strategy based on strong and consistent scientific evidence that VMMC reduces the risk of sexual transmission of HIV from women to men by approximately 60 percent.

In Lesotho, Jhpiego works closely with the Health Ministry to offer free VMMC services in five districts of Maseru, Leribe, Berea, Mafeteng and Mohale’s Hoek.

More than 130 000 men have been circumcised since the organisation started working in Lesotho in 2012.

Jhpiego Assistant Communications Officer Thato Liaho yesterday told a press conference that tomorrow, the organisation would kick-start its intensified summer male circumcision programme in Leribe with a roadshow.

“For us the upcoming Christmas holidays means intensifying the summer male circumcision campaign, targeting male persons aged 15-29,” Ms Liaho said.

She said the age group had been chosen after it was realised that they shied away from seeking medical services, especially HIV and sexually transmitted diseases testing.

She said this made the age group vulnerable to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases infections; adding “we are saying to them, there are health services which you need to access in order to live long.”

For her part, Jhpiego Communications Manager Polo Motšoari said the campaign was aimed at spreading awareness that male circumcision could still be conducted in summer.

She said the advantages of VMMC included reducing the HIV infection by 60 percent, reducing chances of penile cancer as well as reducing chances of cervical cancer in their female partners.

She said the campaign also aimed to address myths and misconceptions surrounding the VMMC, including the belief that medical circumcision could only be done in winter.

Ms Motšoari said VMMC could be done in summer and the patient could heal properly as long as they followed proper care procedures.

“To show that most people still believe that VMMC can only be done in winter, in 2015 alone we had 26 577 undergoing VMMC and of these, 20 957 were done between June and August while 5 620 were carried out between October and April,” Ms Motšoari said.

Jhpiego Lesotho Director Virgile Kikaya also refuted claims on social media that medically circumcised men were susceptible to penile cancer.

“As it stands, there is no evidence whatsoever that VMMC causes penile cancer in any way,” Dr Kikaya said, adding, “Instead there is a strong medical evidence that VMMC reduces penile cancer”.

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