28 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Infant Circumcision Could Soon Be Compulsory

GOVERNMENT is considering making neo-natal male circumcision compulsory as a long-term strategy for HIV prevention.

In an interview yesterday, Aids and Tuberculosis Unit national director in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare Dr Owen Mugurungi said infant circumcision was more sustainable than adult circumcision.

He said the ministry was still following due process for the feasibility and acceptability studies for its introduction.

Dr Mugurungi, however, said they were carrying out research on the implications of infant circumcision.

"We have received a lot of inquiries from young couples who wanted their children to be circumcised. We are following due processes for the feasibility and acceptability studies.

"There are people who are advocating infant circumcision and there are some who are against it. We do not want to force anyone and that is why we want to carry out research," he said.

Dr Mugurungi said it would take time for the country to realise benefits of infant circumcision.

"It is a long term investment that can only bring benefits maybe after 20 years when the children are sexually active.

"It will be much beneficial to work on the age group that is already sexually active but we also need to start on infant circumcision."

Dr Mugurungi said of the estimated 486 000 babies born in Zimbabwe every year, 60 percent are male.

Dr Mugurungi said that would translate to about 291 600 male babies who have to be circumcised every year.

He said it was also important to work on the best time to do the circumcision.

"There are issues that we have to look into such as the best time to circumcise the babies. Some may want their babies to be circumcised when they are still in the maternity wards or when they come for the ten days review.

"The best period to do infant circumcision is between zero and 60 days," he said.

Statistics showed that about 1 500 new infections are prevented for every 200 000 babies circumcised.

Recently, the American Academy of Paediatrics said health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks after previously identifying only potential health benefits.

The revised policy is based on a survey of medical literature that found definite preventative and public health benefits.

Zimbabwe has 40 centres approved by the Health Ministry where men can be circumcised free of charge.

According to the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, as of October 80 000 men have been circumcised, against a target of 1.2 million for the next five years. The programme is in its third year.

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