Tuesday, January 8, 2013

UGANDA: Museveni still opposes circumcision

Africa Review
January 2, 2013

Museveni sticks to position on circumcision

by Agatha Ayebazibwe
Uganda's President Museveni has reaffirmed his earlier stand against safe male circumcision in eliminating HIV, saying the campaigns in favour of the method are misleading Ugandans into unchecked sexual behaviour. [He's right.]

In his end of year message to the nation on Sunday, the President said there was need to revisit the earlier strategy of Abstinence, Being faithful and Condom use (ABC) strategy if the current trend of HIV is to be reversed.

The 2011 Uganda Aids Indicator Survey figures show that the prevalence of HIV among adults has increased from 6.4 per cent in 2005 to 7.3 per cent in 2011. Ministry of Health figures also indicate that new infections increased by 11.5 per cent between 2007/8 and 2010/11.

The President said Ugandans should return to morality and sexual discipline if HIV\Aids is to be fought effectively, adding that HIV/Aids is not a medical but a moral problem that should be treated as such.

Mr Museveni had made the same call in Rakai during the World Aids Day celebrations on December 1, 2012.

The President’s call is in disagreement with that of [some] scientists who advocate for safe male circumcision as another preventive measure which offers [only men] up to 60 per cent protection from the HIV virus that is yet to have a cure.

Officials of the Aids Control Programme (ACP) at the Ministry of Health received the news with criticism, saying HIV is a big problem in Uganda that cannot be tackled with a single strategy but rather a combination of all scientifically-proven preventive measures, including circumcision.

“Currently, the scourge is on the rise despite the fact that the ABC campaign has existed for several years now,” said Dr Alex Ario, the ACP programme manager. Dr Ario added: “Other methods cannot be excluded at a time when we have to ensure that the rate of infection is brought down.”

He, however, said the government should acknowledge that there is a problem so it can adopt all the available preventive measures. “We are not telling people to go on rampage because they are circumcised. [They can do that without being told.] We will continue to use a combination of preventive measures until that time when we will get one method that offers 100 per cent protection against HIV.”

The UNAIDS Country Representative, Mr Musa Bungundu, said the ABC strategy is not enough to reduce the increasing HIV infection rate and therefore should be used alongside other measures.

He said if the President thinks that circumcision is not effective, the government should ensure that policies against mother-to-child transmission of HIV are implemented beyond paper to check the more than 15,000 children who are born infected every year.

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