Zimbabwe is likely to miss its target to circumcise at least 1,3 million males by next year, with statistics showing that despite a national awareness campaign, just 600 000 volunteers have undergone the procedure since 2009.
Health experts say myths and misconceptions surrounding male circumcision continue to hinder successful implementation of the programme.
Statistics from the Ministry of Health and Child Care show that 637 405 men have so far been circumcised between the inception of the programme in 2009 and the first quarter of 2016.
However, Health and Child Care Ministry Aids and TB unit director Dr Owen Mugurungi was pleased with the progress.
“Zimbabwe is traditionally a non-circumcising country and to introduce a surgical procedure at a higher scale is generally considered a mammoth task.
“However, the Ministry of Health, with support from its partners and the generality of Zimbabweans, have proved that it is possible to introduce such a programme and scale it up across the different communities and provinces,” he said.
“It’s important also to note that the circumcision of 1,3 million men is not an end in its self but a process to move towards a national circumcision prevalence of 80 percent and above beyond 2017. What this means is that after 2017, the country will still continue to provide circumcision service.
“Based on our achievements so far the impact of missing the targets will be very minimal. Modelling suggest that should we achieve 70 percent of our target by 2018 we will be able avert almost 180 000 new infections compared to about 220 000 if we meet our target.”
The procedure is said to reduce the risk of male HIV and Aids infection through sexual intercourse by at least 60 percent.
According to the 2014 Global Aids Response Progress Report, 11 176 Zimbabwean males were circumcised in 2010 from a target of 20 000.
The figure increased to 36 742 in 2011, but fell short of the targeted 60 000, while in 2012 a total 40 755 males were circumcised against a target of 80 000.
The report shows that in 2013 a total 112 084 males were circumcised against a target of 115 000.
Government, last year launched an ambitious US$100 million Accelerated Operational Plan 2014-2018 male circumcision programmes that is expected to see at least 80 percent of the male population being voluntarily circumcised.
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