New Vision (Kampala)

Uganda: Gov't Drafts Policy On Male Circumcision

Kampala — THE government is formulating a national policy on male circumcision to reduce HIV infections.

"We are conducting an assessment of medical male circumcision in the districts of Kampala, Kumi, Gulu and Rukungiri. The results will inform us on how prepared our health sector and the general public are for the new policy.

"The Ministry of health is convinced that male circumcision will reduce HIV/AIDS prevalence, especially among people aged 15 to 49 years," said Dr. Alex Opio, the assistant commissioner of National Disease control. He was addressing a public debate on medical male circumcision on Tuesday in Kampala.

"The ministry is looking at issues like public involvement, access, cultural and religious differences," said Opio, adding that the policy would be part of a national strategy but not an independent programme.

"We should make the procedure available at lower levels through empowering other medical personnel like midwives and nurses if we are to meet the increasing demand for medical male circumcision."

"In Uganda, about 24% of males aged between 15 and 24 are circumcised but there is need to increase that figure. This group stands a high risk of HIV/AIDS infection because it is starting to engage in sex," said Prof. George Kirya, the head of the Uganda Health Service Commission.

Kirya said about 130,000 Ugandans get infected with HIV/AIDS every year. "About 6% of Uganda's population is infected with HIV. The largest number of infections are sex-related," he added.

A medical research carried out between 2005 and 2007 in Uganda, Kenya and South Africa indicated that circumcision reduced the chances of contracting HIV in men by 60%. Based on the findings, the World Health Organisation and the UN Programme on HIV/AIDS in 2007 recognised male circumcision as an additional strategy to prevent HIV.

Circumcision reduces urinary tract infections, inflammation, ulceration of the male organs and penile cancer. It also reduces the risk of cervical cancer among women who have sex with circumcised men.

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