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SA leading continent in HIV/Aids fight
Cape Town – South Africa is leading the continent and is becoming the technical and knowledgable resource for Africa in the fight against HIV/Aids, the US global Aids co-ordinator ambassador, Eric Goosby, said today while announcing $10 million in funding for medical male circumcision.

Speaking at the Woodstock Community Health Centre, Goosby, who oversees the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar), said South Africa had played a central role in a number of HIV/Aids interventions, from anti-retroviral treatment to male circumcision.

Goosby said male circumcision had the ability to lead to a drop in the number of new HIV/Aids infections by millions, pointing to three randomised trials had shown that male circumcision helped reduce the risk of men contracting HIV by 60-65%.

The additional $10 million in funding for medical male circumcision brings the total funding to $46 million under Pepfar.

The new funding would top up the $520 million that Pepfar currently contributes to tackling HIV/Aids in South Africa.

South Africa, he said, was beginning to move towards a state where the number of new infections was beginning to drop below the number of those on treatment.

Commenting on Pepfar’s plan to look more at backing sustainable organisations and interventions to ensure that it got better value for its funding going forward, Goosby said the move would not lead to reduced support or quality of support.

“We will not cut and run, this isn’t a show game. We have had a decade of commitment to South Africa,” he said.

However, he pointed out that the move away from working with multi-national organisations to public-sector organisations had helped Pepfar make significant savings.

Pepfar’s male circumcision programme was launched in 2009 and last year, the fund supported 170 000 voluntary medical male circumcisions (of the two million worldwide), while this year it aims to increase the number to 500 000 circumcisions.

Goosby said in rolling out its voluntary circumcision programme, it was necessary to work with community organisations for 18 months to two years in order to make an impact.

He singled out the example of Swaziland, where male circumcision had not taken off because of lack of preparation with local bodies and political involvement.

Dr Thobile Mbengashe, chief director of the Department of Health’s HIV and Aids programme, thanked Pepfar for the additional contribution, adding that tackling HIV/Aids required community partners.

Mbengashe estimated that South Africa had reached about 900 000 circumcisions since the programme’s launch in 2009 and added the additional $10 million would help the programme to reach its target of achieving 4.3 million circumcisions by 2016. –

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