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Winter circumcision project launched


Limpho Sello

UNITED States (US) Ambassador to Lesotho Matthew Harrington says his country intends to support the circumcision of 20 000 Basotho men in the next three months to prevent 1 500 new HIV infections.

He said this on Friday during the launch of the Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) winter campaign in Mafeteng. VMMC is a surgical procedure whereby the foreskin is removed by a trained medical professional.

The project is sponsored by the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and implemented in Lesotho by JHPIEGO. It is part of the more than $265 million (about M4.036 billion) of US government bilateral support to help Lesotho combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Mr Harrington said more than 111 000 Basotho men had so far undergone medical circumcision to protect their health and that of their loved ones. Studies have also shown that circumcision reduces the risk of HIV transmission from an infected female partner by 60 percent.

He said they had earmarked to circumcise 20 000 more men to stem Lesotho’s high HIV prevalence rate of 23 percent.

“In partnership with the Ministry of Health and together with our implementing partner — Jhpiego – the United States hopes to support the circumcision of an additional 20 000 men in the next three months, with a focus on those between the ages of 15 and 29. Achievement of that goal would prevent approximately 1 500 new cases of HIV.”

Mr Harrington said they launched the VMMC campaign in winter because many Basotho men prefer to get circumcised during the colder months believing wounds heal more quickly this time of the year. “However, let me be very clear on this point: the time of year plays absolutely no role in how quickly a wound heals. Proper wound care, personal hygiene, and abstaining from sex during a recovery period will ensure quicker healing after circumcision, no matter the season or the weather.”

The ambassador also explained that the VMMC programme provided circumcisions throughout the year, “as any season is the right season to care for your health and get circumcised”.

Mr Harrington also called on women to mobilise their spouses, brothers and sons to undergo circumcision, saying it was also for their benefit.

“Circumcisions have a huge benefit for men, as I have mentioned. But they also reduce the chances that their partners will contract sexually-transmitted diseases or cervical cancer. It will take everyone, including husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, community and political leaders, traditional circumcisers, and the clergy to ensure that VMMC has the significant national impact on HIV that it is capable of having.”

In her remarks at the same occasion, Health Deputy Minister Liteboho Kompi, said just under one in four people were living with HIV in the Mountain Kingdom hence the concerted efforts to fight the pandemic.

“We are hard at work to fight the HIV epidemic given that Lesotho is number two in the world as far as HIV prevalence is concerned. About 76 people are still getting infected daily,” she said.

VMMC services, Ms Kompi added, were available at health centres around the country and were provided for free.


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