With government still far off its goal to medically circumcise 4.3 million by 2016, Department of Health officials say they plan to begin promoting medical male circumcision (MMC) among infants and young boys.
Since the 2010 launch of the HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) campaign, almost 1.4 million men have been circumcised. This means that with only two years to go until the 2016 deadline, government has only reached about a third of its target.
“We need to improve our performance in the next two years,” said Dayanund Loykissoonlal, MMC programme manager at the National Health Department. “We did nearly half a million (circumcisions) in 2014 so we are moving but not fast enough.”
He added that the department planned to explore approaches to encourage parents to medically circumcise boys after birth and as young children.
The department also continues to work with the traditional sector to improve safety and links with the HCT campaign, Loykissoonlal added.
Soweto general practitioner Dr Don Pupuma said he always encourages patients to circumcise their little ones as early as possible because the after effects are less severe.
“It is distinctly painless when you are a youngster (because) you have less erections,” said Pupuma speaking to journalists and medical professionals in Johannesburg yesterday.
Julian Pretorius, 24, recently underwent the procedure and says he would have done it at an earlier age had he known.
“I went last week to get circumcised and am very happy I did it,” Pretorius told Health-e News. “I am not ashamed – I am a young, sexually active male and I am encouraging even my older brother to go and do it.”
Large clinical trials in South Africa, Kenya and Uganda found that medical male circumcision could reduce a man’s risk of contracting HIV by up to 60 percent.
With about six million people living with HIV in South Africa, CEO of the specialist HIV care and training company Careworks Harry Lake said the country must prioritise resources for medical male circumcision.
“We have got to put as many resources as possible into MMC so that we can reverse these numbers,” Lake said.