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February 17, 2014

Zimbabwe Urges Male Circumcision to Reduce HIV/AIDS

by Sebastian Mhofu

Zimbabwe's government is encouraging more men to get circumcised in an effort to fight AIDS. Scientists say male circumcision may reduce the transmission of the HIV virus by up to 60 percent.

That is Mukudzei Mukombe - better known as Jah Prayzah - singing minutes after undergoing a voluntary circumcision. He is showing that he can still sing after going under the knife.

The deputy head of Population Services International [PSI] Zimbabwe, Dr. Karin Hatzold, said her organization is using the 25-year-old singer and other entertainers to persuade young men to get circumcised.

"We have campaigns that are specifically targeting adolescents, people in schools, so during school holidays we doing massive mobilizations on mass media... 'So get smart, get circumcised. Male circumcision is not only HIV prevention intervention, but it is improving hygiene, you are cleaner, you are smarter.'"

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the part of the world most affected by HIV and AIDS. Zimbabwe was hit hard in the early years of the pandemic, but has made progress in reducing AIDS-related deaths and the HIV prevalence rate.

Research has found that circumcision reduces the chance of men contracting HIV by up to 60 percent, good reason for Zimbabwe to undertake the current program after it received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as the U.S. and British governments.

A self-described "ambassador" of voluntary medical male circumcision, Jah Prayzah, revealed what convinced him to undergo the procedure. "It is about my health, mainly and that of my wife," he said. "As "brand ambassador of male circumcision," he said he must lead by example, so that many more people can come in and get circumcised.

Since last year, more than 200,000 Zimbabwean males have been circumcised. Officials are hopeful their goal of 1.3 million circumcised men can be achieved.

To reach the goal, the government says it will increase the number of centers that offer free male circumcision.