By Jenny Tolep, External Relations and Communications
At the recent International AIDS Society conference, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that in 2014 there had been a 750 percent increase in the annual number of Voluntary Medical Male Circumcisions (VMMC) performed just four years previously in 2010.
This is a tremendous scale-up for a biomedical intervention that can reduce the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission by up to 60 percent. This major milestone helps extend this preventative approach to 20.8 million VMMCs, which are needed to achieve 80% coverage and avert an estimated 3.4 Million HIV infection by 2025, in 14 priority countries across Eastern and Southern Africa.
By the end of 2014, 9.1 million VMMCs were performed. PSI’s work accounts for 1.11 million of the procedures achieved in 8 of the 14 priority countries by the end of that year.
But these numbers can’t be reduced to a simple medical procedure, rather, they represent the millions of men who have decided to undergo this sensitive, yet potentially life-saving intervention.
One of those men is Isaac Ishmael.
Isaac is a local Malawian who learned about VMMC after speaking with a group of PSI/Malawi mobilizers. They provided valuable information about the stages of the procedure, reassurance about the quality and location of services, and details about recovery. Isaac felt confident after the discussion, and was inspired by the number of other men in his community who planned to undergo the procedure. He decided VMMC was the right choice for him.
“It changed the way I see the future,” said Isaac, “because I feel like I acted like a modern man, thinking not only about my future, but also about my partner’s future.”
In 2014, there was an estimated 1.1 million people reported to be living with HIV in Malawi. To help reduce this statistic, PSI/Malawi has worked with the Malawi Government and USAID to conduct a VMMC demand creation campaign to support service delivery in Blantyre, Malawi. After the campaign, a study was done to understand what led clients to undergo VMMC and what media channels were most appealing. The evaluation showed that interpersonal communication strategies, such as mobilizers, were most beneficial in helping address barriers to VMMC and encourage men to follow through with the procedure.
To date, PSI has circumcised 1.25 million adolescent and adult males , contributing to more circumcisions for HIV prevention than any other organization globally. As a result, PSI has averted more than 330, 000 cases of HIV infections through VMMC since 2007, and is continuing to save and improve new lives every day.
Photo Credit: Miguel Samper