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Launch of a National Accelerated Male Circumcision Program by King Mswati III
July 19, 2011
Statement by US Embassy, Swaziland
His Majesty King Mswati III and the Swazi Ministry of Health partnered with the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to launch the government’s Soka Uncobe male circumcision campaign.
On Friday, July 15th, the King said to an audience of 3,000, including the Her Majesty the Queen Mother and senior members of the royal family, that the country is at war with HIV and declared, “Soka Uncobe must be the motto now for all men to go for male circumcision.” Soka Uncobe – ‘to circumcise is to conquer’ in siSwati – is a plan to provide voluntary medical male circumcision to the 152,800 Swazi males aged 15-49. In a time of national economic hardship, the King’s public support for male circumcision for HIV prevention was a historic moment for the country and spoke to the promise of a healthier life for tens of thousands of Swazi citizens.
Since 2006, with funding from PEPFAR and others, Swaziland has been scaling up male circumcision as part of the National Strategic Framework on HIV/AIDS (NSF). Soka Uncobe is an ambitious, Cabinet-approved program to increase the impact of the NSF male circumcision goals. From the national perspective, a successful Soka Uncobe male circumcision campaign could avert nearly 90,000 new HIV infections and save over $600 million in the next decade. If Swaziland is successful, it will take a giant step toward meeting the UN declaration of zero new HIV infections by 2020.
As Head of State and steward of Swazi culture, King Mswati III’s endorsement of Soka Uncobe should accelerate the government’s program.
The King’s eldest brother, Prince Masitsela, who has championed the effort by example, was encouraged, “I hope that since Their Majesties have come out to support the initiative a lot of Swazis will circumcise because it has its benefits.” Beyond circumcision, at the numerous Soka Uncobe sites throughout the country, men and their partners will receive high quality HIV testing and counseling on healthy sexual practices. Those who test positive for HIV will be referred directly to care and treatment support.
Also read this announcement by Ambassador Irving.