CIRCUMCISION PUSHED IN PNG TO HELP FIGHT AIDS

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Feb. 7) - A campaign for circumcision has been introduced in Papua New Guinea to help fight against HIV/AIDS.

The campaign, which will be launched in East Sepik Province is said to be the first in Papua New Guinea.

[PIR Editor’s Note: East Sepik province is located on the northwest coast of Papua New Guinea’s mainland peninsula.]

Wewak’s Boram Hospital acting chief executive officer Sr Joseph, OBE, FRCS, initiated the campaign in November last year after consultation with the Provincial Health office.

The method Joseph said was being practiced in some parts of South Africa, especially among the tribes in Malawi and Gautieng and if this method was used in PNG it should help minimize the spread of the HIV virus.

Adult HIV infection rates above 30 percent are found in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Swaziland and eastern South Africa, where circumcision is not practiced, and yet HIV infection rates remain below 5 percent in West Africa and other parts of the continent where circumcision is common.

Joseph—she herself a medical doctor—said laboratory studies have found that the foreskin was rich in white blood cells, which were the favored targets of HIV, the virus that caused AIDS.

So the theory is that men who are uncircumcised are much more likely to contract the virus during sex with an infected woman, and that the epidemic spreads when these newly infected men have sex with other women.

Although the apparent protective effect of circumcision has been noted for more than 20 years, doubts linger as to whether circumcision itself was protective, or whether the lower risk may be the result of cultural practices among those who circumcise.

HIV rates are low in Muslim communities, for example, which practice male circumcision but also engage in ritual washing before sex and frown on promiscuity

Joseph said the method was targeted at reaching all ages of men because men were known for their poor hygiene during sex and this would greatly benefit our women.

"This method can also help to prevent the rate of cervical cancer as male hygiene is greatly enhanced following the circumcision," Joseph said.

Joseph stressed though that the method did not offer complete protection, but the access for HIV virus was through the delicate innermost foreskins and when this was removed, the danger of infection dropped from 30 per cent to 10 percent.

The Wewak Provincial Health office which has been taking the lead in promoting the method through awareness has received good response from people especially among the men.

All health workers from local Aid Posts in the province will undergo proper training to carry out proper circumcisions.

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