According to the Washington Post, small teams of Israeli doctors will travel to Swaziland to perform circumcisions for two-week stints this year under a program organised by the Jerusalem AIDS Project and financed by Hadassah, a US-based Jewish organisation, and other donors.

The effort to circumcise Swazi men is being carried out in the hopes of curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS in a country with the world’s highest HIV infection rate.

Several studies have shown that circumcised men are at least 60 percent less likely to contract HIV. But in poor countries like Swaziland, public health systems already overtaxed by the AIDS epidemic are struggling to offer the procedure.

“For us the major constraint is surgeons, doctors,” said Dudu P. Simelane, executive director of Family Life Association of Swaziland, a non-governmental group hosting the Israeli doctors.

Medical experts in the tiny kingdom, which has fewer than 100 doctors, want to offer the procedure to all 200 000 sexually active men, at a rate of approximately 200 circumcisions per day or 20 times faster than the country’s current pace.

No country has undertaken such a feat – except Israel, where after the fall of the Berlin Wall its doctors circumcised roughly 80 000 immigrants, mostly adults from Soviet bloc countries that prohibited Jewish rituals.

At a series of occasional “Circumcision Saturday” events, Swazi surgeons have demonstrated they can each do 10 procedures, each taking about 25 minutes, per day. If they can keep up that volume every weekday, experts believe it would take just four doctors at each of five separate clinics to reach the target of 1,000 circumcisions a week.

Melvyn Westreich, one of the first Israelis to arrive, said improving the flow of patients through the clinics is key. Saving even a few minutes via a new stitching technique, or injecting the men with local anaesthesia in the waiting room rather than a busy operating room translates to more circumcisions each day, each week, each month, he said.

Health-e News Service

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