“What are you waiting for? It's cool. It's clean. It protects. It saves lives. Get circumcised!”
These are the opening lines of the Let’s Circumcise song, which was launched at the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in (ICASA) in 2011, to signal the start of a movement of strengthening HIV prevention services across the continent.
Champions for an AIDS-Free Generation (Champions) collaborated with prominent African musicians—Zimbabwean guitarist, composer and vocalist, Oliver Mtukudzi, Botswanan kwaito kwasa star, Vee, and Zimbabwean reggae-dancehall artist, Winky D—to create a song about the benefits of male medical circumcision.
The song was part of an intensive campaign to promote safe male medical circumcision in 14 Eastern and Southern African countries. These include Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Free copies of the song were disseminated to local TV and radio stations for wide broadcasting in these countries. The song has also been shared on the Champions’ website to reach people globally.
Clinical trials have demonstrated that voluntary male medical circumcision (VMMC) can reduce female-to-male transmission of HIV by 60%. If scaled up to reach 80% of adolescent and adult males within five years—and coverage maintained thereafter—it can avert more than 3.4 million new HIV infections and save an estimated US$16.5 million in care and treatment costs over 15 years.
The Champions are vocal advocates for VMMC and have spoken about its benefits on many occasions as part of their work to create an HIV-free generation.
“We have advocated for voluntary safe male circumcision in all countries we have visited,” said former president of Botswana, HE Festus Mogae. “Although countries are at various stages of implementation of the programme, most have scaled up and accelerated implementation.”
Three years on, more and more men in the 14 targeted countries have undergone VMMC. According to the 2014 WHO data, an ‘impressive upturn’ in the number of male circumcisions has resulted in 2.7 million men in the 14 priority countries stepping forward for VMMC in 2013. This has led to a cumulative total of 5.82 million males circumcised since 2008. This represents a near two-fold increase from a cumulative 3.2 million males circumcised by the end of 2012.
If this positive trend continues, the ambitious target of 20.8 million males circumcised by 2016 may become a reality.
WHO Progress Brief, July 2014, http://www.who.int/hiv/topics/malecircumcision/male-circumcision-info-2014/en/