Religious leaders improve uptake

Educating religious leaders about how voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) helps prevent HIV infection increased the number of men being circumcised in Tanzania, a study published in The Lancet has found. The intervention consisted of a one-day seminar co-taught by a Tanzania pastor and a clinician who worked with the Tanzanian Ministry of Health (MOH), followed by meetings with the study team every two weeks. The church leaders who received this education developed culturally appropriate ways to promote VMMC in their villages. In the eight villages where the leaders were taught about circumcision, 52.8 percent of men became circumcised during the MOH’s VMMC campaign, compared to 29.5 percent of men in eight villages that received information from the campaign only — a 23 percent increase. The researchers estimate that if the intervention were used across Tanzania, it could lead to an additional 1.4 million male circumcisions, which could prevent 65,000 to 200,000 new HIV infections. In a commentary on the study, Nelson Sewankambo and David Mafigiri of Makerere University in Uganda call for more research on innovative religious-based interventions to promote healthy behaviour in religious communities (The Lancet, 14 July 2017).