Mozambique's ex-president suggests circumcision to halt HIV spread

Maputo- Mozambique (PANA) -- The former President of Botswana, Festus Mogae, has recommended that African leaders consider circumcision as a way of reducing the s pread of HIV/AIDS.
Mogae is heading a delegation from "Champions for an HIV-Free Generation", an or ganisation set up by former African heads of state and other prominent figures, w hich is on a tour of southern Africa.
Speaking at a Maputo press conference, after meeting with members of the Mozambi can government and the leadership of the National AIDS Council (CNCS), Mogae sai d "we must explain that circumcision gives people greater possibilities of not be i ng infected by HIV.
This does not mean that people become immune to the virus an d that should be made clear.
" He also urged governments "to teach their citizens not to have multiple sexual p artners because this is one of the practices that leads to the spread of HIV/AID S .
" Mogae noted that at his meeting with Mozambican ministers, questions concerned w ith financing the struggle against AIDS were discussed.
He exercised no doubt that improvements were needed in funding this battle.
Mogae's position on circumcision is controversial and his enthusiasm for the pra ctice is not shared by the Mozambican Health Ministry.
Health Minister Ivo Garrido told reporters that circumcisions "is not the soluti on for AIDS in Mozambique," although there are studies showing that circumcised m en have a reduced risk of catching HIV or other sexually transmitted infections.
Garrido said that as part of the government's strategy for accelerating the prev ention of HIV/AIDS, the Health Ministry will establish conditions so that any ma n who wants to be circumcised can have the operation done in safety.
The cultural and religious diversity of Mozambique means that rates of circumcis ion are higher in some parts of the country than in others, but there are no det a iled statistics available.
The Health Ministry is preparing a study to assess the real situation.
"Circumcision is a practice advocated by some religions, such as Islam", said Ga rrido, adding that "there are groups, which, because of their traditions, advise circumcision.
But there are other groups who don't accept this practice".
The claim that circumcision cuts rates of HIV infection is by no means universal ly accepted.
First, circumcision would only be a safe option if done under sterile conditions in a health unit, as traditional circumcision, using unsterilised blades, is mo r e likely to spread HIV than prevent it.
Secondly, the claim that circumcision prevents infection is all too likely to pe rsuade circumcised men that they do not need to use condoms.
There are also ethical issues involved.
Circumcision is a form of mutilation, a lbeit a minor one and no doctor should perform it without the informed consent o f the patient.
In addition to Mogae, the "Champions for an HIV-Free Generation" include the for mer presidents of Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia, Joaquim Chissano, Benjamin Mk a pa and Kenneth Kaunda and South African Anglican Archbishop, Desmond Tutu.

10 february 2009 18:29:00

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