21 619 Namibian men have surrendered their foreskins during medical procedures for the Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) campaign which launched two years ago.
Following recommendations made by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for 14 African countries with high HIV prevalence to implement the VMMC, Namibia placed themselves among the 14 priority countries whose progress in reaching 80% of circumcising men by 2017 varies significantly. Kenya (108%) and Ethiopia (128%) have exceeded their 80% while Namibia is at 28% and has the lowest coverage among the 14 high priority countries. VMMC reduced female-to-male transmission of HIV by 60%.
“Male circumcision is a once-off procedure, and unlike Antiretroviral Therapy (ART), it has no ongoing costs. Once a man has undergone the procedure he will benefit from the preventive effect for the rest of his life. Despite that, however, we need to redouble our efforts and not fail our people including our development partners who support us technically and financially,” the Minister of Health, Bernard Haufiku said this at the hand-over of the finalised materials for Social Behaviour Change Communication recently.
At the launching of the VMMC in 2014, The Villager reported that approximately 330 128 men were expected to be circumcised by the end of 2015/16 financial year in Namibia as underlined in the National Strategic Framework for HIV/Aids response 2010/11-2015/16.
Between April and December 2015 about 7580 of all HIV positive pregnant women in public health facilities were receiving ART for life to prevent transmission of HIV to their infants and also for their own well-being.
During the same period 4678 children born to HIV positive mothers were tested for HIV when they were 6-8 weeks of age and additional 2196 had first HIV tests by 12 months of age. According to the WHO, Namibia had a 1% Mother-to Child-Transmission in HIV at six weeks but increased to 7% by 18 months.
“To eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV in Namibia, it is important that Namibians, women and men of the reproductive age group prevent contracting HIV in the first place; get tested for HIV and if HIV positive it is important to prevent unplanned pregnancies, ensure good health when becoming pregnant and receive ART during pregnancy and for life and ensure that their HIV-infants receive appropriate care including testing for HIV when they are 6-8 weeks, nine months and 18 months of age,” Haufiku said.
PMTCT services are available in all public health facilities providing ANC services, labour and delivery and postnatal care services. Pregnant women attending the abovementioned services are also offered HIV testing and counselling remains high among pregnant women attending ANC services, more than 92%.
According to the Namibian National Strategic Plan 2010/11-2015/16, the immediate priority of the strategy should reach adult men who are most at risk of HIV exposure during heterosexual intercourse, as well as initiating services for adolescents. The 15- 49 year age group was identified as most vulnerable, therefore, the primary target group for MC comprises of HIV negative boys and men who fall in this age bracket.
The total estimated implementation plan is expected to cost N$202m over a three-year period, before providing for a five percent contingency, The Villager reported in 2014.
The plan states that the most expensive outcome relating to the provision of adult medical male circumcision is estimated to cost N$192.8m, with the first two years accounting for an estimate of N$85.5m.