Minister of Health and Social Services Dr Bernard Haufiku on Wednesday launched a new mass media campaign to sensitise the public on the need for social behaviour change to mitigate new HIV infections.
Minister of information Tjekero Tweya also attended the launch in Windhoek of the Social Behaviour Change Communication mass media campaign for the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission and Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC).
“Both strategies are key to making an immense contribution to the efforts of the goal of reaching an HIV-free generation. It is projected that circumcising 80 percent of men among the general population in high priority countries would avert one in five HIV-infections by 2025 and have long-term benefits for both men and women,” Haufiku stated.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision for 14 African countries with high HIV-prevalence among the general population and where the vast majority of men are not circumcised.
VMMC reduces sexual transmission of HIV by 60 percent. Namibia is among the 14 priority countries whose progress in circumcising 80 percent of men by 2017 varies significantly.
Kenya at 108 percent and Ethiopia at 128 percent have exceeded their set target of 80 percent, while Namibia stands at 28 percent – a figure described by the health minister as one of the lowest among the 14 high priority countries.
“Despite that, I am encouraged as our numbers of circumcised men are picking up. For the year 2014 we circumcised 3 912 men and for 2015 we circumcised 17 707. I believe we’re on the right track,” he enthused.
Haufiku, however, feels Namibia should redouble its efforts and not fail its people – including its development partners who support the country technically and financially.
Male circumcision is a once-off procedure, and unlike anti-retroviral therapy, has no ongoing costs. Once a man has undergone the procedure he will benefit from the preventive effect for the rest of his life.
“I would, therefore, take this opportunity to call upon men to come in their numbers for circumcision and I ask women to support their men in this process,” the health minister said.