Male circumcision on the rise in Rwanda, cuts HIV/Aids infection rates

While male circumcision is relatively a new health practice in Rwanda, at least 300,000 Rwandan men have undergone medical circumcision in the past two years and the numbers are set to double by 2018.

This adds to at least 330,000 males circumcised between 2010 and June 2014. The ongoing circumcision drive was launched by the Ministry of Health in 2010.

Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana, the head of the HIV/Aids department at Rwanda Biomedical Center says this has reduced the number of new cases of HIV/Aids infections as a result of putting emphasis on educating men about the benefits of circumcision.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) has said male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexual HIV infection cutting the risk up 60 percent according to research findings.

Dr. Nsanzimana says that Rwanda plans to cut down the numbers of infections by two-thirds. Rwanda has over 200,000 people living with HIV/Aids, 133,000 of are using antiretrovirals (ARV’s), while 32,000 have not reached the required age for taking ARV’s.

Figures from the World Bank last year put the prevalence of HIV/Aids in the country at about 3%, down from 11% in 2000 and the country has seen a reduction in child-to-mother infections from 10.8 to 1.7percent.

Rwanda has set a target of cutting the HIV/Aids related deaths from 5000 to 2500 by the year 2017 and reducing child infections.

Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) has been monitoring the progress of male circumcision in the country through an electronic data reporting system, officials say.

The central African nation introduced the new non-surgical male circumcision method (PrePex) in 2013, and the initiative saw many male Rwandans flock to medical centers to get circumcised, as the new, surgery-free procedure made the process easier than ever.

At the time of the launch, government had a target of having at least 700,000 men aged between 15 and 49 years to undergo the exercise by the end of 2016, now the ministry of health says that the new target is of 800,000 men by 2018, in the above age bracket.

The program however, has some setback as cases of mishaps have been recorded in the countrywide drive.

In 2014, two families in Burera District whose children developed medical complications after undergoing circumcision recently expressed their concerns over the safety of the procedure.

In one of the cases, a medical complication came after the boy underwent circumcision during a campaign by the military that was held at Burera’s Bungwe Health Centre in October last year

The parents of a six-year-old boy claim their son is suffering from urethrocutaneous fistula, an unusual anomaly in children in which they develop an opening on the ventral section of the penis.