by Austin Kakande
The Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM), a college of all catholic bishops in the country, has endorsed government’s proposal for the adaptation of medical male circumcision as a mean for HIV prevention.
However, ECM General Secretary Father George Buleya said the endorsement is on condition that Catholics should be accessing the service in catholic health facilities only.
“We have taken this stand on the understanding that circumcision contravenes no Biblical teachings” said Father Buleya. The cleric said while they have adopted male circumcision, the Catholic Church was still against the use of condoms as an HIV preventive measure. Various researches are agreeing that male circumcision can reduce HIV transmission by 60 percent, on top of reducing by 100 percent transmission of other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) such as gonorrhea and syphilis. Apart from that, it is also believed that male circumcision greatly reduces risk of cervical cancer in women.
Meanwhile, government says it would phase out antiretroviral (ARVs) with stavudine (D4T) by June next year, as the drug is believed to have more negative side effects.
Stavudine is widely used in developing countries as a first line therapy for HIV because it is user friendly and cheap, but in 2010, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended its phasing out due to its long term irreversible side effects such as inflammation of the pancreas, lactic acidosis and diabetes, among others.
Principal Secretary for Nutrition and HIV and AIDS in the OPC Mary Shawa said government has already started providing new ARV regime to pregnant women, children with HIV as well as those people experiencing side effects with the old drug. She said the process of getting out from the old to the new ARV regime has been slow because there was need of training the service providers; a process which she said was still underway.