Swazis turn to circumcision to curb Aids

SWAZILAND has launched a drive to encourage men to volunteer for circumcision in a bid to curb the spread of HIV-Aids

The small kingdom has the highest HIV-infection rate in the world.

Circumcision is not traditionally practised in Swaziland, but studies have shown that it could halve men's chances of contracting HIV.

The drive aims to circumcise 80percent of Swazi men within a year, said the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which is funding the project.

The project, which kicked off yesterday with the launch of four new clinics, targets men between the ages of 15 and 49, and is expected to cover the entire country by April.

Programme coordinator Ayanda Nqeketo said: "If we prevent new infections right now through this intervention, then in the near future we will start to see the HIV situation change. Of course, there is no quick-fix solution but we are talking about the impact over time."

In 2009, 25,9percent of the country's 1,2million people were living with HIV. According to the World Health Organisation, between 2000 and 2009, life expectancy in Swaziland plummeted from 61 years to 32 years due to Aids-related deaths.

USAID country director Jennifer Albertini said: "If you are able to do this (circumcision) in a short period of time, the impact is felt more dramatically."

The programme is projected to cost about R107million.

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