The North West Department of Health has set an ambitious target of circumcising 70 000 men per year to prevent the on-going transmission of HIV.
North West Health MEC Dr Magome Masike said the department had set the target following clinical trials done in Uganda, Kenya and in South Africa, which showed consistent results that male circumcision reduces the risk of contracting HIV.
To help reach the target, MEC Masike opened a high volume male medical circumcision clinic at Tshepong Hospital recently. The clinic is a partnership between the Perinatal HIV Research Unit and provincial health department.
Called Gola Monna, meaning “grow Men” in Setswana, the circumcision clinic is capable of doing at least 200 circumcisions per week at each site in Klerksdorp and Potchefstroom.
“By 2016 over four million men should have been circumcised in South Africa. Here in the North West we are required to do an additional 70 000 circumcisions per annum to contribute to this target,” MEC Masike said. He urged communities to encourage all young men aged 15 to 45 to go to the new clinic for circumcision.
However, the MEC also warned that circumcision was only partly protective.
“Men must still condomise and be mutually faithful with their partners. We trust, therefore, that Gola Monna lives up to its name and ensures that many young boys protect themselves to manhood and contribute to us all eventually living an HIV-free society,” MEC Masike said.
Dr Limakatso Lebina, a founder of the clinic, said the clinic would circumcise men to ensure that they had lifelong partial protection against HIV.
“Removal of the foreskin clearly can’t stop all HIV infections but it certainly prevents most. We tell all the men that we circumcise that they must continue to condomise,” said Dr Lebina.
The clinic is gearing up to respond to a high winter demand in June and July, when it plans to provide circumcision seven days a week.
Bafana Montweli, who was among the first to be circumcised at the new clinic, encouraged other men to step forward and do the same.
Statistics about male circumcision:
- The risk of HIV is reduced by 60 per cent if a man in South Africa is circumcised.
- The age of first sexual activity in South Africa is 16 years, which highlights the importance of early circumcision.
- Government’s target is for four million men to be circumcised by 2016, while the target is to circumcise 114 000 young men in the North West over the next two years. Gola Monna plans to contribute 19 000 circumcisions to this total.
- Circumcision is a very safe procedure. There are problems with only one to two per cent of all circumcisions and in most instances it is minor and resolved within a few days.
- Those who are circumcised can go back to school or work the next day.
- It takes about two hours at the clinic to be circumcised – this includes HIV testing, counselling about circumcision and the procedure. The actual circumcision takes about 15 minutes.