Zambezi regional health director Agnes Mwilima says since the implementation of the voluntary medical male circumcision programme in 2010, they have circumcised 14 043 men in the region.
Revealing this to The Namibian in an interview yesterday, she stated that they performed successful operations on men between the ages of 10 and 49 years, and have seen a great impact on the reduction of the HIV prevalence rate.
"The impact is already being realised as the region has seen a sharp decline in the HIV prevalence rate from 31,7 % in 2010 to 22,3% in 2018 as the Namibia Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (Namphia) has indicated. Schoolchildren, falling within the age groups of 10-14 years and 15-19 years, have been very receptive to the programme. and constitute the highest number of clients attending VMMC in the region.
"This has seen some schools attaining up to 100% saturation for circumcisions done. Hence, more efforts are being taken to sensitise older males on the need to undergo circumcision," Mwilima said.
However, she pointed out several challenges encountered during the VMMC outreaches, which are culture, seasonality and difficult-to-reach areas. "Some men are not willing to get circumcised due to traditional beliefs, saying that is not part of their culture, and others still strongly believe that VMMC can only be conducted in winter. Another challenge is to reach areas such as Impalila and Chetto, as well as floodplain areas like Mbalasinte, Itomba and Muzii, as they are not easily accessible throughout the year," she explained. According to Mwilima, circumcision continues to be performed at the Katima Mulilo State Hospital and at several outreach points in the region. It is free of charge, and transport is provided after the operation.
"For those individuals who are unable to come to the VMMC clinic during office hours, a stand-by team is always available after hours and on weekends to perform the surgery. It is a short procedure that is undertaken under local anaesthesia. Pain is minimal, and healing takes four to six weeks," she added.
Charles Usurua, the health ministry's director of policy planning, said during the national management development forum this week that 32 869 operations were done under the programme on people between the ages of 10 and 49 countrywide, although the target figure was 41 000.