Male lawmakers in Zimbabwe on Friday underwent voluntary circumcision in a new public drive to curb the spread of HIV, which affects about one in 10 people in the southern African country.
A handful of lawmakers stepped into a mobile clinic set up inside the parliament building to undergo the procedure carried out under local anaesthetic and using a new method that does not require downtime.
“I feel proud now that I have accomplished what we set to accomplish,” Blessing Chebundo, a member of parliament from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change party, said minutes after he was circumcised. He was the first of a batch of lawmakers that lined up for the procedure.
Speaker of parliament Lovemore Moyo said by going public about their testing and circumcision, the lawmakers were “leading by example”.
Dozens of deputies and parliament staff on Thursday took HIV tests.
Forty-four members of parliament have volunteered to be circumcised, in a campaign hoped to reach 1.2 million males by 2015.
Population Services International, a US-based global health agency, is offering the testing and circumcision procedures.
Medical research has shown male circumcision can reduce chances of HIV transmission by 60 percent.
“If we can circumcise 1.2 million men by 2015 we can prevent 750,000 new cases of HIV, which means we can really start to envision a country in which there are no new HIV infections,” said the health agency’s director Louisa Norman.
Zimbabwe has 1.1 million people living with HIV, including 150,000 children, according to the country’s National AIDS Council.
In a rare open talk about the disease, President Robert Mugabe in March told parliament that some of his political allies had died of AIDS.