Like Super Models? Check This Out!

October 28, 2016

This week, PLoS ONE released a special issue devoted entirely to the subject of voluntary medical male circumcision—one of the most effective biomedical prevention tools available today. This one-time procedure reduces men’s risk of acquiring HIV by up to 75 percent for life—and when sufficient numbers of men in a community have undergone the procedure, then women’s overall risk of acquiring HIV drops too. It’s an indispensable part of the effort to end epidemic levels of HIV.

One of the things that’s also unique about VMMC is that it was introduced at a public health level more than five years ago. So there’s a wealth of real-world information about the cost and effectiveness of reaching men at different ages, in different contexts and with different outreach strategies. That’s why we’re calling the information in this new supplement “super models”—because they are mathematical models that are based on a lot of real information (not just projections or best guesses). This gives them strength, specificity and urgency.

Pick up the journal or download the PDF and you will find an urgent call for scaling up VMMC and a compelling history of roll out to date. To begin with, most programs reached the men and boys who it was easiest to find, not necessarily the populations who needed the procedure the most. Reinforcing the call to action, the super models show the potential impact of VMMC, and how countries can make decisions according to their context. There is also a helpful question and answer post that simplifies some of the core messages.

As the lead editorial of the special issue concludes: “To achieve further scale-up, a combination of evidence, analysis, and impact estimates can usefully guide strategic planning and funding of VMMC services and related demand-creation strategies in priority countries. Mid-course corrections now can improve cost-effectiveness and scale to achieve the impact needed to help turn the HIV pandemic on its head within 15 years.”

This is dense material. It’s also super important for advocates to understand and to act on the recommendations laid out in this document. Please be in touch with AVAC and/or join our Truthtellers listserv to share your questions, ideas and priorities.