, KISUMU, Kenya, Mar 10 – The Government has launched a six-day road show to sensitise communities in Nyanza on the benefits of voluntary medical male circumcision for HIV prevention.
Nyanza Provincial Commissioner Francis Mutie set off the caravan in Kisumu which will traverse 11 districts in Luo Nyanza ending at Homa Bay Stadium on March14.
Mr Mutie said that Nyanza has the country’s highest HIV prevalence rate. He quoted statistics from the Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey (KAIS) of 2007, which revealed that 15 percent of Nyanza’s adults are infected with HIV, which is more than double the national rate of seven percent.
“Nyanza needs to double its HIV prevention efforts,” he said.
Mr Mutie added that voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) plus prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) are important HIV interventions that directly target the family.
“Both men and women should be actively involved in ensuring that they access and use information that will help them make better choices,” he said and emphasised that the services were voluntary.
Studies have shown that being circumcised reduces a man’s chances of becoming infected with HIV by more than half. If 80 percent of the uncircumcised men in Nyanza became circumcised, an estimated 900,000 infections could be prevented in men and women over 20 years.
Likewise, the benefits of PMTCT are dramatic. Without such interventions, 38 out of 100 children who are born to HIV-infected women are likely to become infected, compared to two HIV infections out of 100 with PMTCT.
The provincial director of public health and sanitation, Dr Jackson Kioko said that the two interventions required community involvement to be effective.
“We believe effective community engagement can produce desired health outcomes,” he said.
Dr Kioko singled out the leadership of the community elders, represented by the chairperson of the Luo Council of Elders Ker Riaga Ogalo.
On his part, Mr Ogalo told participants that voluntary medical male circumcision for HIV prevention is important for the community.
However, he warned the youth against engaging in risky behaviour, because circumcision does not provide full protection against HIV. He said that abstinence was the ultimate assurance of being HIV free.
The provincial director of medical services, Dr Ojwang’ Lusi, also emphasised that men must practise the ABCs – abstinence, being faithful and correct and consistent condom use – even after getting circumcised.
The speakers also urged men to be involved in the prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) programme.
Dr Kioko encouraged men to form support groups for PMTCT “and to seek to have more men accompanying spouses to the antenatal clinics and knowing HIV status.”
Mr Mutie stressed that this was not a service for only women and that both parents are accountable for the health of their baby: “It is our responsibility to ensure that our children have the opportunity to live a healthy, HIV-free life,” he said.
During the PMTCT sessions, both partners are given health information on safer sex practices, HIV counselling and testing, and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, Mr Mutie added.