By Joan Akello
Safe Male Circumcision (SMC) policy was launched in September 2010 to reduce the risk of HIV infection in men by 60 percent. However, advocates say women and leaders have stalled its success.
Marion Natukunda an advocate at the AIDS Information centre HIV prevention Research says much as there is little political will, women are also less involved in the policy. She said women should rally for SMC because it has an indirect prevention benefit to females.
She said by reducing the number of newly-infected HIV positive men, women will also benefit by mitigating risk of new HIV infections in women.
“Women should respect the ‘no sex for six weeks’ period for the circumcised men to heal although they have no say in the policy.”
The policy targets circumcising at least 80 percent of adult males between 15 and 49 by 2015 but only 380,000 men have been circumcised since 2009 in Uganda. This is expected to avert 3.4 million new infections by 2025, cost US $ 1.5 billion and then save US$ 16.5 billion by 2015 in averted treatment costs.
A consortium of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) like UNAIDS and the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) expect an average of 840,000 Ugandan men circumcised annually for the next five years , hence 4.2 millions circumcisions. The plan suggested circumcising 1.2million men in 2012 alone but it has not been achieved.
The Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development (HEPS-Uganda), Uganda Network of AIDS Service Organisations (UNASO), Health Rights Action Group (HAG) and Mama’s Club released a report dubbed “ Too little too slow” to advocate for the expedited and effective implementation of SMC in Uganda.
Richard Hasunira, HIV/AIDS adviser HEPS- Uganda attributed the low numbers to poor planning, coordination, documentation and implementation among stakeholders.
He was addressing the press about this year’s World AIDS Day theme “Re engaging leaders for effective HIV prevention”. He added that most leaders have wrong information about SMC and this has misguided the public.
“Some leaders say circumcised men go on rampage but this is not the case. The men do not just walk in get cut and walk out. They are counseled.”
Natukunda said, “Leaders should stop reading and shelving the HIV/AIDS prevention policies. They should act on them now.”