August 25, 2014
Kenya: Circumcision Secretariat Closesby John Muchangi
The secretariat that coordinated all voluntary medical male circumcision in Kenya the last six years has closed.
The Male Circumcision Consortium (MCC) started in 2007 in Kenya and has been key in promoting the male cut to prevent HIV in Kenya.
It was the body that reached out to the Luo Council and of Elders and Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga to popularise male circumsion Nyanza, where it is not traditionally practised.
Voluntary medical male circumcision has reached almost 700,000 men, up from 7,000 in 2008 when it was officially adopted in Kenya, according to the Ministry of Health.
MCC was the secretariat of the national taskforce on VMMC and linked the different groups carrying out medical male circumcision in Kenya.
It was funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and was initially planned to close in 2012 but was extended by two more years.
[Rather typical of Western interventions in Africa. Come in with a hiss and a roar - "We're going to save you!" - then leave with their tails between their legs, having achieved - what?]
"MCC was instrumental in forming the Nyanza Provincial VMMC Task Force that spearheaded the rollout of VMMC from the start, when the ground was shaky, to the present when we are firmly on solid ground," said Prof Kawango Agot, director of Impact Research and Development Organisation. "I believe that without MCC, Kenya would not have led the rest of Africa in VMMC rollout."
Officials said they sought other funding sources in vain and the closure of MCC was likely to slow down the momentum in Kenya.
Male circumcision has been proven to cut the risk of men acquiring HIV by about 60 per cent and remains a key prevention strategy in Kenya.
["Proven" - based on 73 circumcised men who didn't get HIV less than two years after 5,400 men were circumcised, while 64 did. And "a key prevention strategy" when condoms are known to be much more effective.]
At least 1.5 million Kenyans are living with HIV and 58,000 die every year after reaching the Aids stage.
The consortium brought together representatives from the ministry of health, FHI 360, EngenderHealth and Nyanza Reproductive Health Society, representing the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Dr Athanasius Ochieng', who sat on MCC as the VMMC programme manager at the National AIDS and STI Control Programme (Nascop), says. "The government provides policy direction and infrastructure. However, our partners help in implementation of services, and therefore there is need to have a coordinated approach. The MCC has helped to ensure this."
The MCC has convened the task forces regularly -- monthly at first and later quarterly -- since the programme began in 2008.
Dr Elijah June Odoyo, currently the technical lead for VMMC at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Nairobi, says that through these studies and dissemination of their results, "the MCC has cultivated a culture where evidence guides programming."
[So without the MCC there will be no evidence? And then how will they know whether male genital cutting is causing HIV to fall, to rise, or having no effect?]
MCC Senior Manager Mathews Onyango said the task force approach championed by the MCC is now considered a "best practice." He adds that "it is now being applied in scaling up interventions to address other health issues, such as prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, tuberculosis and leprosy, and HIV/AIDS care and treatment."