December 7, 2011
Male circumcision is one of the most overlooked tools to prevent HIV, experts said at the 16th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA), which is meeting Dec. 4-8 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. UNAIDS and the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief have announced a five-year campaign to encourage men in 14 sub-Saharan Africa countries to undergo medical circumcision, which studies have shown reduces the risk of female-to-male sexual HIV transmission by roughly 60 percent.
"If we have a 60 percent reduction, if you combine that to the other prevention measures we have, we can start reducing sexual transmission numbers of new infections even more than 50 percent," said Michel Sidibe, UNAIDS director.
Luo communities in Kenya initially resisted male circumcision, which had been out of favor for hundreds of years, Sidibe said. "When we managed to bring the elders and managed to mobilize them, and make them understand it is a matter of survival of their community, the change was amazing. People who were resisting circumcision, today they are just asking, and [the authorities] don't know even how to deliver on it."
Overall, successful and sustained campaigns against AIDS will require African governments to take the lead role, Sidibe said. "My expectation is to engage African leaders and make them understand that we cannot put people on treatment for life just counting on resources coming from outside," he said. They should be "looking on domestic funding and trying to look at innovation in terms of funding on the continent."
"The relationship with countries is moving from a traditional donor relationship to one more of a partnership, where we expect there to be a contribution from the country to match and amplify our contributions in-country," said Dr. Eric Goosby, the US global AIDS coordinator.