Health stakeholders have cautioned the Ministry of Health (MoH) to tread carefully on the new Medical Male Circumcision (MMC) policy saying lack of a good communication strategy might worsen the pandemic.
Speaking at a debate on male circumcision in Lilongwe, stakeholders said inadequate information among the public and health service workers can lead to increased spread of HIV/Aids due to unsafe circumcisions.
Among the highlights of the debate, were contributors’ questions on high prevalence of HIV/Aids in areas which have male circumcision as part of their culture and on findings of local research on male circumcision.
Local and international researches indicate that MMC can reduce chances of contracting HIV by 65 percent.
Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen), Executive Director, Martha Kwataine, said there are a number of misconceptions and myths surrounding male circumcision which must be cleared.
She cited reports of sex workers in Mangochi who are demanding unprotected sex from circumcised clients and negative attitude towards men seeking medical circumcision by nurses perceiving them as womanisers as example of perceptions that may hinder MMC success.
“From public health point of view, this is very important but the question should be asked, is our health care system ready to deliver such a service? We need to sensitise both the public and healthcare service personnel,” she said.
Programme Officer for National Sexually Transmitted Infections and Male Circumcision, Amon Nkhata, said the ministry has a communication strategy that will bridge cultural and religious stumbling blocks as well as the myths and misconceptions.
“This programme targets the sexually active males and within a period of five years, we would like to circumcise 1.2 million and we have set mechanism to achieve this. We hope to sustain male circumcision as a health service as previously there were medical services but this should now be part of HIV/Aids prevention approach,” Nkhata said.