On Thursday April 3, 2014, the United States Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, through the Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission, Virginia Palmer, announced additional funding of $11million to the PEPFAR South Africa budget for voluntary medical male circumcision. This brings the total PEPFAR funding for Voluntary Male Medical Circumcision support in South Africa to $47 million for 2014.
Increasing the availability of VMMC in South Africa is a strategic investment scientifically proven to reduce men’s risk of becoming infected with HIV. In a country where more than 400,000 people acquire HIV annually, VMMC offers a lifeline to men, who are often underrepresented in HIV/AIDS programs.
VMMC is a brief medical procedure that confers lifelong benefits. Circumcised men are approximately 60 percent less likely to become infected with HIV than uncircumcised men, and are at reduced risk of acquiring other common sexually transmitted infections. Female partners of circumcised men also share in the benefits, experiencing a reduced risk of human papillomavirus (HPV), a leading cause of cervical cancer.
The success of the South African VMMC program reflects the leadership and commitment of the South African government, as well as PEPFAR’s significant contributions to the effort. The program has expanded rapidly since its launch in 2009, with each year’s results exceeding that of all prior years combined. In 2013, PEPFAR worked with the South African government to conduct more than 295,000 voluntary medical male circumcisions, bringing the total to approximately 500,000 procedures since the program’s launch.
PEPFAR works in close partnership with the South African government to support all aspects of the VMMC program, including strategic planning, in-service clinical training, public information campaigns, service delivery, and program monitoring and evaluation. VMMC is offered as part of a standard package of sexual and reproductive health services, including HIV testing and condom provision. For many men, VMMC may provide a first opportunity for accessing health services and knowing their HIV status.
VMMC services are offered to adolescent and adult men at service points across all nine provinces in South Africa. If 8 out of 10 men ages 15 to 49(approximately 4.3 million in total) become circumcised in five years’ time, it is estimated that more than one million new HIV infections could be prevented by 2025, saving approximately $5.5 billion in averted treatment costs. According to statistical models, South Africa has more men to reach than any of the 13 other VMMC focus countries, and by doing so, stands to prevent the most HIV infections with VMMC out of all sub-Saharan African nations.
Since its inception, over the past 10 years, The U.S President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has had remarkable strides in saving the lives of many in South Africa. To date, the American people, through PEPFAR, have contributed more than $4.2 billion dollars to South Africa’s HIV/AIDS response. In 2013 alone, the partnership between the two governments has seen:
- More than 2.4 million HIV-positive individuals receiving antiretroviral treatment
- A reduction in the mother-to-child transmission rate of HIV to less than 3% at birth
- 6.6 million individuals receiving HIV counseling and testing services
- 177,000 orphans and vulnerable children reached with care services