Zimbabwe Lawmakers Get Circumcised to Fight HIV

Members of Parliament take the lead in having the procedure done.

Zimbabwe's  Deputy Prime Minster Thokozani Khupe, shown second from right, introduced the idea of circumcision, BBC News reported. (Photo: Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Jun 22, 2012
Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal and got in a boxing ring.

In an effort to tamp down the spread of HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe, several Members of Parliament have taken the bold step of voluntarily undergoing circumcisions.

BBC News reports that Blessing Chebundo, chairman of Zimbabwe Parliamentarians Against Aids, was the first to undergo the procedure, hoping to motivate others to have the operation.

In 2007 The World Health Organization and UNAIDS recommended men get circumcised as a way to reduce the risk of spreading HIV.

Some studies show that circumcision may play an important role in the spread of the virus. Scientific American reported on a 2010 PLoS One study that found circumcision could factor into HIV trasmission by sparking changes in the penis’s microbiomes, or microbial communities.

Before circumcision, the story explained, communities of anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that can’t grow in oxygen) are plentiful—but are almost gone after circumcision. When those bacteria are present in uncircumcised men they could trigger an inflammation in the genitals, causing an increase in immune cells. Those immune cells may be vulnerable to HIV infection.

Zimbabwe has made astounding progress in reducing the spread of AIDS. Science Daily reported that the number of people infected with HIV has gone from 29% in 1997 to 16% in 2007.

The circumcision plan was introduced by Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe in 2011, the BBC said, but the idea wasn’t initially popular with several MPs.

To expedite the procedure, a makeshift clinic was reportedly set up in Parliament House in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, as well as in a tent across the road.

Do you think circumcision is a good way to help stop the spread of HIV and AIDS? Tell us in the comments.

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