PSI wants to circumcise 16,000 sexually active men in Malawi

Population Services International Malawi (PSIM) wants to compliment government efforts to reduce new HIV infection among sexually active men and has rolled out a voluntary male medical circumcision programme in southern region districts of Thyolo and Blantyre.

The campaign by Malawi government for medical male circumcision as part of its HIV prevention strategy hopes to target more than 250,000 men by 2015.

And PSI intends to circumcise about 16,000 men in the two districts to compliment government’s efforts, according to PSIM’s Chawawa Nkhoma.

“Voluntary medical male circumcision is an important strategy for HIV prevention, especially in areas with high HIV prevalence rate. We want to reduce new HIV infections as well as other sexually transmitted infections,” said Nkhoma during the launch Thursday.

Medical male circumcision as part of its HIV prevention strategy
Medical male circumcision as part of its HIV prevention strategy

The World Health Organization endorsed the procedure as an HIV-prevention measure in 2007, but implementation of a large-scale male circumcision programme in Malawi has been controversial in the conservative country.

Southern Malawi, where most circumcisions take place, has a large migrant labour population and an HIV prevalence rate of about 18 percent, accounting for almost 70 percent of the country’s HIV infections, according to government figures.

Circumcision is culturally less prominent in northern Malawi, where prevalence rates are also lower.

The disparity between HIV prevalence and traditional circumcision rates has raised doubts among some health officials, who argued in local newspapers that they had not yet been presented with enough clinical evidence, and the efficacy of male circumcision was questionable given high HIV prevalence rates among traditionally circumcising populations in the south.

“Malawi had also conducted its own study which also proved the efficacy of male circumcision in reducing the spread of the virus that causes AIDS,” said Ministry of Health spokesman Henry Chimbali.

The government has embarked on an intense campaign to disseminate accurate information about medical male circumcision.

Malawi registers 70,000 new infections a year, and people still had to be reminded that male circumcision alone is “not 100 percent safe”, Chimbali cautioned.

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