The rate of HIV infection is likely to slow down once a plan to have all men circumcised starts.
This follows recent revelations by Kenya Aids Indicators Survey that male circumcision cuts the risk of HIV transmission by 60 per cent.
Top on the Ministry of Health’s five-year strategy is the free circumcision, to be made available in all public health centres.
Sh960 million from the US government has been injected into the project to buy surgical materials, mobilise communities and provide counselling. With a budget of Sh2,000 for each volunteer, the campaign targets 500,000 uncircumcised men in Kenya.
Success in Nyanza
Making the announcement during a media briefing, National Aids & STI’s Control Programme (Nascop) director Nicholas Muraguri said the first phase of the project had proved successful in Nyanza Province. “We managed to circumcise 18,000 men,” said Dr Muraguri, adding that the men volunteered for the operation.
He said that the agency planned to extend to Coast, and parts of Nairobi and Western provinces, such as Teso District, where circumcision is not practised.
According to the Nascop director, circumcision is recognised by World Health Organisation (WHO) as an effective intervention towards curbing rapid HIV infection.
The male cut is known to lessen the chances of getting sexually transmitted infections that cause sores, such as syphilis, as well as reduce the spread of a virus that causes cervical cancer in women.
Statistically, Dr Muraguri said that prevalence of the virus in Kenya reduced after circumcision. Of 1,000 men who were circumcised, infection was found to be in only 250 of them.
“Circumcision may not be a factor (contributing to HIV/Aids) but it is a major driver of the spread,” said Dr Morris Loolpapit, the manager of male circumcision at Family Health International.
He said men still had to follow other protective measures such as avoiding multiple sexual partners and using condoms.
Elsewhere, a high-level meeting of Aids experts from East Africa started on Tuesday with calls on governments to stem the spread of new HIV infections.
UNAids regional director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Mr Mark Stirling urged the countries to formulate new strategies to reduce the rate of new HIV infections by half by next year.
Currently, more than four million adults and close to 420,000 children in the region are living with HIV, while more than 2.7 million children have been orphaned by the disease.
Speaking when he opened the meeting in Nairobi, Special Programmes assistant minister Mohamud Ali said HIV and Aids remained the biggest threat to the socio-economic development of the region.
“In Kenya for example, more than 1.4 million people are living with HIV, with the country’s HIV prevalence rate standing at 7.8 per cent,” he said.
The two-day meeting taking place at Laico Regency Hotel in Nairobi, seeks to build political commitment in fighting HIV and Aids in the EAC states.
Last week, local doctors sounded the alarm over the high number of new HIV infections, in particular, among married people.