Are men shunning circumcision programme?

Very few men have taken advantage of the Safe Male Circumcision (SMC) programme since it started last year, the Ministry of Health said.

Principal public relations officer at the ministry, Temba Sibanda has told Mmegi that the programme uptake stands at only 12 percent, translating to only 14,000 out of the targeted 467,000 men. Those who have come forth are mostly young men between 25-29 years.

"Although we are targeting 0 to 49 years, 25 to 29 years seem to be more responsive. However, we have not conducted a survey to identify why this group is responsive," he said.

Sibanda said that even though it is a mystery why a large portion of the targeted group is not coming forth for circumcision, the programme itself has manpower shortages, especially nurses and doctors. Besides, the public workers strike negatively impacted on the implementation of the programme.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health received equipment and supplies worth P6.5 million last week from African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships (ACHAP) for better facilitation of the programme. The medical equipment consisted of 10 diathermy machines, 28,000 disposable SMC kits and 50,000 HIV test kits.

"The diathermy machines will be used to stop bleeding and tissue damage during surgical procedures," she said and added that the World Health Organisation recommends use of diathermy for SMC procedures as it has been found to be most effective.

"One of the positive attributes in the use of the diathermy machine is the reduced time taken to conduct an SMC procedure. This machine also reduces the amount of other equipment required such as forceps and surgical sutures used to control the bleeding," he said. He added that the disposable SMC kits will facilitate SMC procedures in different settings as they eliminate the need to sterilise equipment after every procedure. This improves efficiency and promotes rapid patient turnover, she said.

ACHAP head, Themba Moeti said during the handover that they are assisting in closing the human resource gap by providing SMC focused teams to help scale up the provision of SMC services. These include 10 doctors, 10 lay counsellors and 10 health auxiliaries. "We look forward to the work these staff will continue doing in the effort to provide SMC services. With the equipment provided and all the investment made in supporting this programme, we look forward to working to support provision of the service many men and boys out there are anxiously waiting for," he said.

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