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HIV Prevention Project Achieves Milestone in South Africa
In its first year, the USAID Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) Project facilitated more than 70,000 medical male circumcisions in KwaZulu-Natal Province, bringing the province’s total to more than 1 million.
Randomized controlled trials undertaken in Kenya, Uganda, and, South Africa have shown that medical male circumcision reduces the risk of sexual transmission of HIV from women to men by up to 60 percent. Medical Male circumcision (MMC) reduces men’s risk of contracting HIV as well as other sexually transmitted infections and offers women direct protection against cervical cancer.
Although some cultures and religions in South Africa customarily circumcise boys and young men, the practice is not widespread. This is where programs such as the USAID Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) Project, implemented by a consortium of partners led by URC, are making a difference. The five-year project in South Africa began in May 2017, setting out to increase demand for MMC among males aged 15 to 34 and provide high-quality MMC services to all eligible boys and men.
Recently, KwaZulu-Natal Province celebrated reaching 1 million MMCs since the onset of the program in 2009. This is the first time any province in South Africa has achieved this milestone. Approximately 70,000 MMCs were performed in the province by the USAID VMMC Project, which is working in 14 districts in six provinces of South Africa.
“We’re working with private health providers, traditional leaders and health practitioners, public health leaders, and others to make sure that men are aware of the benefits of MMC and that services are easily obtained and professionally performed through public and private health facilities,” said James Ndirangu, Ph.D., Chief of Party for the USAID VMMC Project. “We’re also coordinating with programs that prevent the spread of tuberculosis and offer HIV testing and treatment.”
Educating Men and Women on VMMC
The USAID VMMC Project conducted a significant public education and demand generation campaign in KwaZulu-Natal Province leading up to the 1 millionth MMC. This involved branded commuter taxis and other ads, traditional leaders (Prince Zulu & Amakhosi) camps, audio, visual and social media, and other activities.
A commuter taxi branded
with a VMMC campaign ad
The campaign also enlisted influential South Africans. The 1 millionth recipient of MMC was a well-known actor and singer – Melusi Yeni – originally from KwaZulu-Natal Province. His MMC was performed on May 25 by KwaZulu-Natal’s Member of the Executive Council for Health, Dr. Sibongiseni Dhlomo, as part of a public event attended by over 3,000 people, including Zulu Nation leader, His Majesty the King Goodwill Zwelithini. Both Yeni and Dr. Dhlomo spoke to the media and more than 100 men volunteered to undergo MMC that day.
Yeni has helped to raise awareness of the health benefits of MMC and calm men’s fears about what happens after the procedure, including the required six weeks of abstinence from sexual activities.
The USAID VMMC Project’s goal this year is to ensure more than 233,000 MMCs are performed in South Africa. The project also is addressing other challenges, such as integration with other health services and creating a system that follows up with men who miss their MMC appointments.
MMC a Key Tool for HIV Prevention
Nearly 15 million MMCs have been performed for HIV prevention in 14 countries of eastern and southern Africa since 2008, including more than 2.8 million in South Africa. In all, these MMCs will have prevented more than 500,000 new HIV infections through 2030, according to the World Health Organization.
Follow the USAID VMMC Project on Twitter @VMMCSouthAfrica.