This evening the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the World Health Organization (WHO), AVAC and Champions for an HIV-Free Generation brought together African political and traditional leaders, as well as key figures in the international HIV response, for a satellite event at the 19th International AIDS Conference 2012. This unique group of leaders shared their views on the challenges and solutions to Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) for HIV prevention in East and Southern Africa.
Three clinical trials have proven that VMMC can reduce female to male transmission of HIV by approximately 60%. If scaled up to reach 80% of adolescents and adult men within five years, and coverage is thereafter maintained, VMMC has the potential to avert more than 3.4 million new HIV infections and save an estimated US $16.5 billion in care and treatment costs over the next 15 years. This cost savings could free up fiscal space for other lifesaving prevention, care and treatment interventions. In 2007, WHO and UNAIDS first recommended that countries and regions with high HIV prevalence, but low rates of male circumcision, add VMMC as part of their comprehensive IV prevention portfolio. Progress has been uneven with some countries making significant gains while others have been slow to bring the program to scale. By the end of 2011, at least 1.3 million men had been circumcised. As of March 2012, five years after WHO-UNAIDS recommendations, PEPFAR estimates that about 1.7 million men have been circumcised. This represents more than 8% of the 20.3 million men that need to be circumcised in order to reach 80% coverage of adolescent and adult men in East and Southern Africa.
“Over the next five years, enough men can be circumcised through voluntary medical male circumcision to prevent 3.4 million new HIV infections and save billions in care and treatment costs,” said His Excellency Mr. Benjamin Mkapa, former President of Tanzania and Champion for an HIV-Free Generation. “Scaling up this intervention is an urgent priority. Although it means an upfront investment, the results are significant long-term cost savings.”
In December 2011, UNAIDS, WHO, PEPFAR, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank and the Ministries of Health from 14 priority countries (Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe) committed to a five-year action framework to accelerate scale up of VMMC, and in turn reduce new HIV infections and free-up resources for other crucial interventions. The framework’s immediate “catch-up” phase is designed to quickly achieve coverage of adolescents and adult men who are most likely sexually active. The second phase—“sustainability”—will expand the framework’s reach to finally integrate VMMC into infant health programs.
Her Excellency Dr. Speciosa Wandira, former Vice President of Uganda and Champion for an HIV-Free Generation, emphasized that men need not be the missing link in HIV prevention. She added that political, traditional and community leaders must lead the charge in changing men’s attitudes about their role in HIV prevention.
“I’m proud of the men of Uganda for accepting the good science behind VMMC and stepping up for male circumcision,” said Dr. Wandira. “Women, in their role as sisters, mothers, wives and partners also play a pivotal role in supporting men to make this decision. VMMC is consistent with our values and shows how we, as men and women and as nations, are able and willing to do all we can to protect our health.”
The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is the U.S. Government initiative to help save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world. This historic commitment is the largest by any nation to combat a single disease internationally, and PEPFAR investments also help alleviate suffering from other diseases across the global health spectrum. PEPFAR is driven by a shared responsibility among donor and partner nations and others to make smart investments to save lives.
Founded in 1995, AVAC is a nonprofit organization that uses education, policy analysis, advocacy and a network of global collaborations to accelerate the ethical development and global delivery of AIDS vaccines, male circumcision, microbicides, PrEP and other emerging HIV prevention options as part of a comprehensive response to the pandemic.
Champions for an HIV-Free Generation is a group of former African presidents and other influential personalities with an aim to mobilize high-level leadership in renewed and revitalized responses to HIV and AIDS in Sub Saharan Africa. The Champions transcend political partisanship to speak freely and independently about the issues that need to be discussed, both publicly and behind the scenes.
Source: United States Agency for International Development