August 31, 2012
Energy was high at the “Call to Action for Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision” session convened by AVAC, Champions for an HIV-Free Generation, PEPFAR, UNAIDS and the WHO. Leaders from across Africa emphasized the potential for VMMC to dramatically reduce infections and save significant treatment and care costs.
Former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa said, “Scaling up this intervention is an urgent priority. Although it means an upfront investment, the results are significant long-term cost savings.” Former Ugandan Vice President Specioza Wandira stressed the need to involve women in every step of VMMC rollout and scale-up: “Women, in their role as sisters, mothers, wives and partners also play a pivotal role in supporting men to make this decision.” Zimbabwean parliamentarian Blessing Chebundo told the moving tale of his decision to get circumcised along with 43 other Zimbabwean lawmakers: “At first I was scared, but later I found out it was almost painless. Every man should consider getting circumcised.” Zambian Chief, Jonathan Mumena XI, the leader of the Kaonde ethnic group which does not practice traditional male circumcision, challenged other leaders to ensure that traditional practices don’t get in the way of saving lives. “What is a culture without a people?,” he asked. AVAC’s Angelo Kaggwa also gave his experience of getting circumcised in Kisumu, Kenya. He challenged the participants to join a coalition of Africans advocating for the accelerated scale-up of VMMC as part of combination HIV prevention. The event also highlighted a new publication by AVAC, UNASO (Uganda), Sonke Gender Justice Network (South Africa) and NEPHAK (Kenya) that is a “Call to Action” on VMMC. Notable African leaders including former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda and former Botswana President Festus Mogae were among the packed room of participants.
PowerPoint presentations from the session are available on the AIDS 2012 website. Learn more about the importance of VMMC as an HIV prevention tool at www.avac.org/malecircumcision and www.malecircumcision.org. For more information on and to join a coalition of Africans advocating for VMMC scale-up visit www.truthaboutVMMC.org.