Male Circumcision Programs in Namibia Should Be Part of Comprehensive Package of HIV Prevention Interventions, Health Minister Says

Male circumcision programs in Namibia should be considered as part of a comprehensive package of HIV prevention interventions, Health and Social Services Minister Richard Kamwi said Thursday during an address to the National Assembly, the New Era/ reports (Kangueehi, New Era/, 9/13).

According to final data from two NIH-funded studies -- conducted in Uganda and Kenya and published in the Feb. 23 issue of the journal Lancet -- routine male circumcision could reduce a man's risk of HIV infection through heterosexual sex by 65%. The results of the Uganda and Kenya studies mirrored similar results of a study conducted in South Africa in 2005. In response to the findings, the World Health Organization and UNAIDS in March recommended the procedure as a way to help reduce transmission of the virus through heterosexual sex (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/7).

According to Kamwi, the country's health infrastructure is not yet equipped to handle providing the procedure on a large scale. "We will carry out an assessment to determine shortcomings and needs and address them properly before we embark on this new service," Kamwi said. He added that it also is "important to ensure that circumcised men do not develop a false sense of security that could cause them to engage in high-risk (sexual) behavior" (Weidlich, Namibian/, 9/13). According to Kamwi, "HIV-negative men who engage in sexual activity before" their circumcision wounds heal also are at an increased risk of HIV. He added that all men who undergo the procedure should use condoms correctly and consistently.

In addition, Namibia's Ministry of Health is planning to research the knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of Namibian communities regarding male circumcision, Kamwi said. He noted that there are some communities in which the procedure is an established practice and other communities in which HIV prevalence is high and circumcision is not practiced at all. Peter Tsheehama, minister of safety and security, said the ministry also must explain clearly the differences between castration and circumcision (New Era/, 9/13).

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