DoH must include community leaders in HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns

By Dr Imran Keeka, MPL, DA KZN Spokesperson on Health:

THE DA calls on KZN’s Department of Health (DoH) to urgently include community leaders such as religious and traditional leaders in programmes aimed at creating a better understanding of the many facets of HIV/ AIDS prevention which do not only involve issues of morality.

The call comes as the country marks a month of HIV and Aids awareness campaigns during December.  This, along with the beginning of the school holidays, will see an increased number of male medical circumcisions

The DA strongly advocates this practice in a bid to ensure that the fight against the pandemic of our time is stemmed.  There is considerable scientific evidence to suggest that MMC assists in curbing transmission although, on its own, should not be considered as wholly preventative.  We also welcome government’s call to use dual protection, one being condom use and the other circumcision however, further awareness of this is needed.

According to a recent parliamentary reply to the DA, during KZN’s last Male Medical Circumcision [MMC] campaign in June/ July this year, 13,265 recorded MMC’s were performed at healthcare facilities in 11 districts in the province.

The same reply confirms that there were no reported deaths in KZN, even from traditionally performed procedures, in stark contrast to the neighbouring Eastern Cape.  This is due to the training given to traditional surgeons by KZN Health which includes the identification of complications and the mechanism of referral should any arise.

Also worth mentioning is that all initiates going through the ritual in rural areas are screened for disease conditions such as HIV, TB, STI’s, Blood pressure and examinations for genital abnormalities. These traditional circumcisions are performed using sterile packs, one per patient and are performed under supervision.

The DA encourages other provinces to emulate KZN’s example by attending such camps so that practical examples can be taken back as a means of good practice.

Certainly, we have come a long way from denial, beetroot and garlic and showers but there is a long way to go still, not only to get another 3 million people onto ARV’s but to ensure that more importantly preventative measures are in place.

The “snip” will certainly go a long way in getting-to a zero infection rate.