Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Lisa Johnson at the Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) Milestone Event

Ambassador Johnson and Governor of the Khomas Region, Laura McLeaod-Katjirua and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Social Services, Ben Nangombe celebrate the cutting of the ribbon at the new Smartcut Clinic.

35,000 Clients Reached with Private Sector Support for Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC)

U.S. Ambassador Lisa Johnson

Through the leadership of the Honorable Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr. Bernard Haufiku, Namibia has made great strides in the fight against HIV/AIDS, establishing itself as a global leader.

The recent NAMPHIA data are clear testimony to this great achievement – and indeed: Namibia is very close to reaching epidemic control and closer than ever to achieving an AIDS- free generation.

Despite this significant progress, however, Namibia continues to see new HIV infections year after year. To address this, a combination of HIV prevention strategies is required to achieve lasting success.

Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision – or VMMC – is an evidence-based prevention strategy and a crucial component of that combination. Specifically, research has proven that being circumcised reduces the risk of acquiring HIV by 60 percent – a truly impressive figure. VMMC also protects against other sexually-transmitted diseases, such as HPV, which can cause cervical cancer in women.

The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, is supporting the Ministry of Health to scale up VMMC to help reach Namibia’s goal of reducing the number of new HIV infections by 75 percent.

To date, the VMMC program in the Khomas region has circumcised more than 35,000 men. VMMC coverage in the Khomas region has now increased to 45 percent among men aged 15 to 29 years old. Statistically, this means that more than 1,000 new HIV infections have been prevented since the program started three years ago. We celebrate this achievement today as a milestone on the march to epidemic control.

Today’s event also highlights an innovative program that works in partnership with the private health sector and the insurance industry. Funded by PEPFAR, through USAID and implemented by AIDSFree, the program joins with the Ministry and the medical aid fund to standardize tariffs for circumcision and train private health providers.

Circumcisions under this program are paid for by medical aid, from which private providers claim directly. But the program equally welcomes clients who do NOT have medical aid. Their circumcisions are covered by a subsidy PEPFAR provides to the private providers. Through this approach, the program has successfully reached men who otherwise would have not benefited from this important public health intervention.

Clients circumcised at private clinics also receive other health services, including screening for sexually transmitted infections, HIV testing, and, if required, are immediately put on treatment.

All of this is now possible right here in this new Smartcut Clinic. Funded by PEPFAR through USAID and AIDSFree, this fully-equipped and staffed facility is a sign of America’s dedication to this important work. I hope to see continued success in this clinic to offer much needed integrated health services for men, including VMMC.

The U.S. Government, through PEPFAR, remains firmly committed to supporting the Ministry of Health and Social Services to achieve its vision of an AIDS-free generation. We are certainly on the right track, but we need your help to encourage more young men to get circumcised, to get tested for HIV, and if necessary, to get on treatment to stop the virus from spreading.

Simply put, VMMC saves lives. I hope you will leave here today and tell others about how important circumcision is in the fight against HIV, and about the services for all men offered here at this clinic.

Thank you.