Zaka (Masvingo Star-New Ziana) – Over 30 000 men and boys in Zaka district were circumcised in six years from 2012 to 2018, reducing new HIV infections by more than 9 000, United States deputy chief of missions, Thomas Hastings, said during a recent visit here.
“I have just visited Ndanga Hospital where I got to observe some of the work that the US government is supporting through USAID and CDC to fight against HIV/AIDS. Specifically we are looking at work supporting Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) in this part of the country. Since this programmes began there has been over 36 000 men and boys who have undergone the procedure and we estimate that this has led to prevent an extra 9 000 new HIV infections,” he said.
Zaka District has two sites for VMMC, at Ndanga District Hospital and the Roman Catholic Church Msiso Mission Hospital.
It is one of the 13 districts in the country that is being supported by the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through its implementing partners Zimbabwe Association of Church Hospitals and International Trainers and Education Centre for Health also known as ZAZIC to scale up the (VMMC) in line with the country’s goal to reach 80 percent coverage in males aged 10 – 29 years by 2024.
Hastings said that in 2019 the US contributed over US$160 million and in excess of US$1billion since the beginning of the programme.
“Seeing the work that is being done here to spread the word about circumcision as a valuable intervention in the fight against HIV/AIDS and the US support for that work is very inspirational. In 2019 the US government contributed over US$160 million through PEPFAR to the efforts here in Zimbabwe. Since it began here in Zimbabwe, it is over US$1 billion,” said Hastings.
“US government support for PEPFAR has been very strong for 16 years. It has gone through many changes of government in the US. It started under President George Bush and went through Barack Obama and now it’s under President Donald Trump. These are three Presidents who have different views on a lot of things but agreed that this work in Zimbabwe and around the world is a very important work for the US to remain committed.”
The annual VMMC services at the district hospitals have increased from 1 000 circumcisions in 2013 to over 10 000 in 2018. From the period October 2018 – September 2019 Ndanga District Hospital circumcised 6 774 and for the whole district the number stands at 10 954.
The VMMC has partial protection against new HIV infections of about 60 percent, but it is also important to note that there is the 40 percent risk and people should use protection.
Masvingo Star-New Ziana