A recently circumcised man in Swaziland 311 (R).
(photo credit: Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters)
Circumcisions will be performed within the next five years on 20 million African
men to help reduce the spread of AIDS, according to a program announced Monday
night by the US government and UN and advocated by the Jerusalem-based Operation
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UNAIDS and the Obama administration announced the
initiative in Geneva, saying that the five-year program will save more than 3.4
million people from being infected with HIV, and $16.5 billion in national and
international funds that would have been spent to cope with the
A delegation of Israeli ritual circumcisors (mohalim) returned
last week from a two-week trip to Africa, where they helped the UN write medical
protocols for the mass operations according to Israel’s
Israel has circumcised about 100,000 immigrants from the
former Soviet Union and Ethiopia who converted to Judaism or whose religious
status was not recognized without it.
Israel’s major contribution to the
struggle against AIDS in the Third World, where the disease is endemic, is
advocating male circumcisions and showing how it has been done here for ritual,
rather than strictly medical, reasons.
Jewish boys are ritually
circumcised at eight days and Muslim boys at an older age, making adult
circumcisions around the world rare.
Studies from five years ago clearly
proved that removing the foreskin – where the virus can hide – can reduce by 60
percent the risk of a man getting infected with the HIV virus during sex. So far, 14
targeted countries in Africa have adopted the WHO’s directive to include
circumcision in their public health programs, and some of them have already
started their mass surgeries.
An Israeli team from the Jerusalem AIDS
Project, along with eight medical centers, launched Operation Abraham and wrote
the protocols for the UNAIDS/US project. Israeli volunteer physicians and
operating room nurses, funded by donations, began in 2007 to perform the
circumcisions, in coordination with local medical authorities, in
The project continued in South Africa and is due to expand to
four more countries next year.
Currently, the Israelis are giving
professional advice to African medical staffers on how to set up clinics and
perform the operation on teenage and adult men. So far, the Israeli organization
has helped to set up three mass circumcision clinics in Swaziland and 10 in
South Africa. Some 40 Israeli surgeons and nurses have participated and trained
150 local medical staff to safely and speedily do the surgery with local
anesthesia. By the end of December, tens of thousands of such operations will
have been performed.
Out of every five men and teenage boys, one will
certainly be saved from contracting HIV, said Dr. Inon Schenker, the initiator
and director of Operation Abraham.
Dr. Eitan Gross, a pediatric surgeon
at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem, is the project’s
medical director, and Dr. Lilach Meletzky headed the delegation that recently
returned from Africa. Hanni Rosenberg is head of the Israel AIDS
During the recent visit to Kwazulu-Natal, the Israeli
circumcisors helped set up circumcision clinics that performed quick operations
on members of the royal personal guard of the king of Zulu, Goodwill Zwelithini
kaBhekuzulu, and thousands of of youths who are about to go on vacation in South
Schenker said that Israel’s expertise in adult circumcision,
necessitated by voluntary conversion of immigrants to Israel, is unique in the
world and that it is contributing directly to the saving of many lives and
boosting of medical know-how in the Third World. Indirectly, it has helped
improve the image of Israeli medicine in the world and that of Israel in general
in Africa, the UN and the US, he added.