MEDICAL science has proven that male circumcision has huge benefits.
The practice, which dates back to Bible times, is belatedly getting the thumbs up from modern science. Judging by recent medical reports there is overwhelming evidence that circumcision significantly reduces the transmission of HIV/Aids and other diseases.
Studies in Africa have revealed a higher incidence of HIV/Aids among groups that do not practise circumcision than among those that do. In South Africa, Uganda and Kenya studies have shown that medical male circumcision reduces chances of contracting HIV by at least 60 percent.
Those that have been circumcised have been shown to be at lower risk of contracting certain sexually transmitted diseases as well as penile cancer.
They are also less likely to transmit to their partners the virus that causes cervical cancer.
Based on this scientific data, we are not surprised that Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli, was this week singing praises of the benefits of male circumcision. We share his sentiments.
But there is need for a word of caution. We think it is critical to point out that voluntary male circumcision should not be seen as “the magic bullet” in the fight against HIV/Aids. The message that male circumcision reduces HIV transmission must be transmitted to the people carefully. There is a danger that those in the health services could end up sending the wrong message.
We run the risk of reversing the huge gains we have scored in the fight against HIV/Aids. Circumcision should not give anyone the licence to embark on reckless sexual escapades. Circumcision must complement other tried and tested practices in containing the disease. It does not replace other methods that we have used to fight the pandemic.
The ABCs – abstinence, being faithful to one’s sexual partner and use of condoms – remain the potent weapons in the fight against HIV. The wording used in the promotion of circumcision must therefore be crafted carefully.
Lt Gen Kamoli chillingly warned that HIV/Aids is a threat to national security.
Indeed the disease, which at its height was mowing down over 20 000 people a year, poses the biggest threat to our existence as a nation.
We must therefore harness all resources at our disposal in the fight against the pandemic. But in spite of these challenges, it has not been all doom and gloom. Lesotho has scored significant gains in the fight against the pandemic.
The majority of our people are on life-saving anti-retroviral drugs. Those on drugs are living almost normal lives. The mother-to-child transmission of the virus has also been significantly reduced. But if we are to keep the disease at bay much more still needs to be done.
HIV/Aids have been described as diseases associated with poverty. The government, with the help of international aid agencies, must strengthen social services to ensure no children are driven to the streets in a bid to eke a living.
This is a huge challenge but with true determination we believe it can be done.