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New Vision
Uganda: Circumcision Not HIV Foolproof - Rugunda

<p>Anne Mugisa</p>

August 7, 2013

Health Minister Ruhakana Rugunda has cautioned that circumcision is not a complete panacea for contracting HIV as some have mistaken it to be.

Rugunda said that male circumcision has been misrepresented especially in the media as a complete protection against HIV infection.

"I stress the usual methods of ABC that have worked here very well before. Abstinence is the best protection, but if you cannot, then use a condom," he said.

"Also get tested to find out if you have a problem because then you can know how to deal with it. HIV is a multiple front problem," he added.

He explained that science has proved that circumcision reduces chances of infection, but it does not give fool proof protection.

Rugunda also asked all Ugandans to play a role in fighting HIV/AIDS instead of leaving it to health professionals only.

Rugunda was addressing a press conference on the sidelines of the symposium of the medical professionals and policy makers from Africa and the US under a partnership they named Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI), in Kampala.

The Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) symposium is taking place at the Kampala Serena Hotel under the theme; Innovations in Medical Education. At least 250 participants from 16 African countries and 14 US universities are in attendance.

Some of the salient issues to be addressed, according to Rugunda, include medical brain drain, health worker welfare especially those working upcountry.

The symposium is sponsored by the US government. The MEPI is a five-year US$130m collaborative programme intended to support the capacity and quality of African medical education, improve retention of medical graduates and promote regionally relevant medical research capacity.

Launched in 2010, the MEPI programme funds 13 African institutions in 12 countries and, according the US Ambassador, Scott DeLisi, it will scale up pre-service education.

In addition to enhancing medical education, according to DeLisi, MEPI will strengthen medical partnerships between the US and Sub-Saharan Africa as well as build collaborative relationships between African nations in health service delivery.

The Principal Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs in the US Department of Health and Human Service, Jimmy Kolker, commended Uganda for its initial fight against HIV saying that it played a lot in brining down the infection rates in the country that was the epicenter of the pandemic late 1980s and early 1990s.

Kolker, a former ambassador to Uganda, said that MEPI's successes, achievements and innovations are only the latest in the on-going processes to build medical and research capacity to fight the disease burden including HIV/AIDS.

"It was the Ugandan scientists who did basic research about AIDS, and it was Ugandan experts and implementers who applied that research to fight the epidemic long before President Bush proposed the Presidential Emergency Programme For Aids Relief (PEPFAR)," Kolker said.

Ambassador Eric Goosby, the US Global AIDS Coordinator, who is attending the symposium, noted that 24% of the global disease burden is in Sub-Saharan Africa. He said that to deal with the disease problem especially, the HIV/AIDS pandemic can only be sustained with a big workforce to provide health services, which MEPI is trying to address.