A Jhpiego-supported campaign to help prevent HIV/AIDS in Botswana has introduced a safe, effective method to scale up voluntary medical male circumcision and has performed more than 600 procedures for members of the armed forces.
With support from Botswana’s Ministry of Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Botswana Defense Force (BDF) has worked to provide a package of HIV-prevention services for young and adolescent men. In the past year, Jhpiego, in cooperation with the BDF, has built the capacity of military health workers to perform medical circumcisions through the MOVE (models for optimizing the volume and efficiency of services). The MOVE approach uses teams of nurses and medical officers who work collaboratively and share tasks to perform the surgical procedures efficiently.
As part of its ongoing efforts to help countries strengthen their health systems and develop capacity of health workers to care for their people, Jhpiego has been working in two areas in Botswana since 2006. In close collaboration with eight Health Training Institutes, Jhpiego is developing evidence-and-skill-based education programs and curricula for students in the health professions. Supported by the CDC, Jhpiego has also helped the health ministry introduce safe male circumcision into its HIV prevention service package and is currently assisting the government in its effort to scale up male circumcision in order to curb the HIV epidemic.
In one campaign billed as “Ntwa e bolotse!” — “The war has started” — the BDF brought in 21 nurses, medical officers and counselors to be trained in VMMC procedures, HIV counseling and testing, promotion of male and female condoms, discussion and counseling about risk reduction and safe sex practices, treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, monitoring and evaluation and quality assurance. This initiative had the support of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) HIV/AIDS Prevention Program.
Clients were recruited from BDF sites around Gaborone, the capital of this south-central African country of 2 million. Recruitment sites included Sir Seretse Khama Baracks (SSKB), Glen Valley, Thebephatswa Air Base (TAB) and Tlokweng.
Soldiers came forward, vowing to “serve their nation with honor by testing and circumcising.” Ninety one of the 200 targeted clients were circumcised in five days in October 2011. Residents from the surrounding area also benefited from the free services.
Dr. Anne Thomas, Director of Epidemiology and Surveillance at U.S. Department of Defense HIV/AIDS Prevention Program who was in Botswana to provide technical support and resources during the October training, praised the effort, saying, “Your staff have been terrific, they did almost 100 MCs this week.”
Since the October training activities, 690 BDF members and other young men were medically circumcised through the MOVE approach in which medical officers perform the operation and nurses carry out the suturing.
Skilled, dedicated and motivated staff will be essential to help the Botswana Ministry of Health reach its goal of circumcising 470,000 men by 2016.