Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Senior Health Reporter
THE number of men who underwent voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) in Zimbabwe last year increased by about 80 percent compared to 2020, statistics from the National Aids Council (NAC) show.
Presenting 2021 HIV estimates in Harare on Monday, NAC monitoring and evaluation director Mr Amon Mpofu said 151 037 men were circumcised in 2021 up from 82 060 in 2020.
VMMC is the removal of all or part of the foreskin of the male sexual organ by a trained health-care professional.
It reduces heterosexual male vulnerability to HIV infection by approximately 60 percent.
Most interesting is VMMC is also an entry point for providing men and boys, who traditionally do not have health seeking behaviour, with broader health packages to improve their health, and indirectly benefits women and girls.
It is part of a comprehensive HIV prevention package of services in Zimbabwe and to be used in conjunction with other methods of prevention, such as female and male condoms.
Estimates by the World Health Organization say US$16,5 billion could be saved in HIV treatment and care costs by 2025, if even 80 percent coverage is achieved in priority countries.
“Male circumcision prevalence for 15-49 years remains at 25 and implementation of VMMC was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic hence low numbers for 2020 and 2021.
However, in 2021 figures went up to 151 037 from 82 060 the lowest yearly figure recorded since we started rolling out circumcision,” said Mr Mpofu. The target for 2020 was 412 722.
He said the country has made remarkable headway in the HIV response and strengthening focus on HIV prevention cannot be over emphasized and VMMC is one of the key interventions.
VMMC provides men a life-long partial protection against HIV as well as other sexually transmitted infections.
In terms of age group, those aged 15-19 have the highest rate of VMMC coverage in Zimbabwe.
Mr Mpofu added that,” Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Midlands North Masvingo have the highest rates of VMMC compared to other provinces. “
Covid-19 pandemic has also escalated the HIV and AIDs related mortality rate in Zimbabwe, which for a long time had been on the downward trend, emphasising the need for vaccination among those living with HIV.
Zimbabwe is among countries that have done fairly well in reducing Aids-related deaths and HIV infections in the region.
While statistics from NAC show that HIV deaths were around 22 000 in 2019, there has been an upward trend estimated to be at 24 000 in 2020 since the outbreak of Covid-19 locally.