Male circumcisions disrupted by Covid, fall short of 2020 target


In areas with high HIV prevalence and low rates of male circumcision, voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) can greatly contribute to HIV prevention. Despite this, there was a steep drop in the number of VMMCs performed in the 15 priority countries in 2020, due mainly to service disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic: approximately 2.8 million procedures were performed in 2020, compared with 4.1 million in 2019.

Several countries suspended their programmes when the pandemic took hold, including South Africa. Despite this, programmes in some countries proved resilient enough to recover quickly and expand during the rest of 2020-notably in Rwanda and Zambia, where programme coverage grew by about 15%. In these countries, adjustments for the safe continuation of VMMC services during COVID-19 included changes in promotion and demand generation, client transportation, service delivery at a health facility or in the community and post-procedure follow-up appointments.

A total of about 18 million VMMCs were performed in 2016-2020, far shy of the 2020 target of 25 million. As well as COVID-19, an additional setback in 2015 and 2016 was the detection of tetanus cases in Uganda, which led to activities being scaled back in that country.

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