TERTIARY STUDENTS MAKE THE CUT
Centres of higher learning have now added medical male circumcision to their health care programmes, in response to the HIV challenge. Voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) is now an important element of an increasingly comprehensive HIV/AIDS programme in the higher education and training sector, driven by the Higher Education HIV/AIDS Programme (HEAIDS), which also champions other services, including HIV counselling and testing, prevention, treatment and support.
Medical male circumcision has been scientifically proven to be an effective HIV-prevention measure, and reduces the risk of heterosexual men acquiring HIV infection by about 60%. Evidence shows that the inner skin of the foreskin is more likely to absorb the HIV virus than any other skin, as it is more prone to small tears during sex and has cells that attract the virus.
Speaking at the launch of the higher education sector VMMC programme at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in Pretoria, on May 30th, Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi emphasised that even though medical male circumcision has been found to be protective against HIV infection, it is not 100% safe. “Always practice safe sex. Use condoms consistently when you have sex,” Motsoaledi urged.
Several students took up the challenge to be circumcised at the launch, as services were offered on the day. The Health Minister, a qualified medical doctor, performed a few of the operations.
Director of the Higher Education HIV/AIDS (HEAIDS) Programme, Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia, said some centres of higher learning will offer the service on site. “Where university clinics are fully equipped, students and staff may book in for the procedure by a trained health professional under safe conditions and will receive pre-counselling and proper follow-up care. Where universities do not have the facilities, they will be referred off campus to nearby government health facilities that are offering high volume services free of charge.”
Medical male circumcision also helps address gender imbalances in HIV-prevalence figures. “Through this circumcision campaign, we are speaking to men to step up to the plate and own some responsibility for sexual and reproductive health. Historically, women have borne the greater responsibility for this,” said the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training, Mduduzi Manana. The campaign is supported by the Department of Health and Brothers for Life, a collaborative effort aimed at young men which includes more than 100 partners working in the field of HIV prevention and health.
Content supplied by the Higher Education HIV/AIDS Programme (HESA)