15 November 2010

Foreign doctors inject vital skills into KwaZulu Natal

An international team of doctors trained local medical teams to perform high-volume, quality medical male circumcisions at St. Mary's Hospital in KZN.


To support the Department of Health's drive to combat HIV infections, an international team of doctors are delivering a world-class training course for local medical teams to perform high-volume, quality medical male circumcisions at St. Mary's Hospital in KwaZulu Natal (KZN).

During Operation Abraham Collaborative (OAC), 175 males were circumcised and given counselling on HIV prevention. The initiative, aimed at strengthening public healthcare delivery in critical areas of need, was supported by Discovery and the Victor Daitz Foundation.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that if 150,000 adult male circumcisions are performed in one year, a total of 10,000 infections a year could be averted. There are an estimated 2 million uncircumcised males in KZN. The South African National HIV Survey 2008 showed the province had the highest HIV prevalence rate at 15.8%, followed by Mpumalanga at 15.4% and the Free State at 12.6%.

Historically, male circumcision has been practised in some communities for various reasons, including hygiene, religion, tradition and culture.

HIV-prevention strategy

Dr Penny Tlhabi, head of public affairs and transformation at Discovery said: "Medical male circumcision is now clearly recognised as one of the important evidence-based HIV prevention strategies. Discovery is proud to support the Department of Health through the training of health professionals in these procedures. We believe that building capacity within our public healthcare system is a vital element in strengthening public healthcare delivery to address HIV as well as other public health problems."

The OAC team, led by Dr Inon Schenker a Senior HIV/Aids Prevention Specialist, trained five doctors and 12 nurses at St Mary's Hospital in Kwazulu-Natal.

Dr Douglas Ross, chief executive officer of St Mary's Hospital said: "We are thankful to the International and South African role players that contributed to this project. It has been a privilege to learn from a team that is a world leader in high-volume medical male circumcision. St Mary's Hospital has enjoyed a very successful start to its high-volume male medical circumcision initiative."

Training included medical circumcision simulations on artificial organs and instructions on creating clinics which can perform 60 surgeries per day with only four beds. The Israeli medical staff also oversaw 175 real procedures performed by the local staff.

After the training, each newly skilled team is equipped to perform 500 circumcisions a month.

"There are two more delegations arriving in the coming months, after further training by these specialists the teams in KZN will be able to perform approximately 1,000 adult circumcisions per month," says Tlhabi.


Source: press release issued by Discovery


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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