What Does Voluntary Male Circumcision have to do with preventing mother-to-child Transmission of HIV? A curious question?  Well,  the Catholic HIV and AIDS Network (CHAN), of which the CI Delegation in Geneva serves as Secretariat and Caritas Ireland (Trocaire) staffer, Ms. Finola Finnan, serves as chairperson, recently provided us with an answer …

For the past two years, CHAN has followed closely the implementation of the UNAIDS- PEPFAR (US government AIDS Initiative) Global Plan to Eliminate New HIV Infections among Children by 2015 and to Keep their Mothers Healthy. In 2012, CHAN pursued research on the number of Caritas and other Catholic Church-related organisations engaged in the Global Plan and found that they were active in all 22 priority countries (21 in sub-Saharan + India) where 90 percent of all mother-to-child transmission occurs.

Recently, CHAN completed additional research on Good Practices among Caritas and other Catholic Church-related organizations in their efforts to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) and to promote early testing and diagnosis among mothers and children who already are living with HIV.

Of course, one major way to stop the transmission to children is to keep their mothers and fathers from being infected in the first place – that’s where male circumcision enters the picture. Studies have shown that men who are circumcised are more than 60 percent less likely to become infected with this virus. Of course, if the men avoid such infection, then there is no danger that wives may be infected by their husbands.

So the CHAN “Good Practice Study”, released, on 7 March 2013,  in Geneva, during the 22nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council, featured the work of Caritas member organisation from USA, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and of Catholic Medical Mission Board, in close collaboration with local Church partners to promote voluntary male circumcision in such countries as Kenya, Zambia, and Nigeria. Other PMTCT efforts by these organisations include formation of support groups for men (so that they will be more open to seek medical check-ups and counseling and to be treated for sexually-transmitted diseases); strengthening communication and marital partnership among couples through CRS’  Faithful House programme; involving husbands in their wives’ ante-natal care visits.

  • The CHAN study also identified a number of additional good practices, including: a voluntary HIV testing initiative conducted as part of the  “Uzima (‘Full Life’) Day”at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic parish in the Kangemi slum of Nairobi;
  • the Association Community Pope John XXIII’s Raimbow Project in Ndola, Zambia, which addresses nutritional needs of malnourished children but combines this with a large-scale VCT (voluntary counseling and testing) programme in the same district;
  • The Association Community Pope John XXIII’s Raimbow Project in Ndola, Zambia, addresses nutritional needs of malnourished children but combined this with a large-scale VCT (voluntary testing and counselling) programme in the same district.
  • Kitovu Mobile AIDS Organisation, sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Masaka, Uganda, solved transport difficulties by delivering ART to clients in hard-to-reach communities
  • Project Hope, an initiative of St. Martin de Porres Catholic Mission Hospital in Njinikom, Cameroon, which operates a “children’s HIV-friendly club” in order to improve anti-retroviral treatment (ART) adherence among some HIV+ 80 children under 15 years of age.

Read in greater detail about these  and other creative Catholic Church-related approaches to stop children from becoming infected with HIV and to diagnose and treat early those mothers and children who already have been infected by following this link:  report by CHAN