By Amy Lieberman
Zambian public health clinics performing adult male circumcisions.
It was a bold move, says Doug Call, Senior Regional Director of Southern Africa at PSI, despite support from local government and evidence from recent randomized controlled trials that showed a 60 percent reduced chance of HIV transmission for HIV-negative circumcised men.
“It was risky on a number of fronts,” Call remembers. “The randomized controlled trials were published but there was and continues to be a backlash against male circumcision. We didn’t know whether or not the donor environment in the U.S. would really get behind the idea to fund this.”
PSI also did not want to make an investment and have it fall apart, Call says, over a project that was culturally loaded.
By the end of 2008, PSI, through its partnership with the Zambian government, performed nearly 2,500 circumcisions. The next year, the program expanded to Zimbabwe – with more than $1 million in private funding for the start-up initiative – and by 2011, the project received its first funding award from the U.S. Agency for International Development and then by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2010.
Now, PSI’s voluntary medical male circumcision program has performed the surgical operation on more than 400,000 teenage boys and adult men in Southern Africa. The United Nations Children’s Fund, the Gates Foundation, USAID and the U.K. Department for International Development are backing is Zimbabwe project with an approximate collective $57 million, and the Zambia initiative is receiving roughly $39 million from USAID, the Gates Foundation and the U.S. Department of Defense.