Botswana, which has one of the world's highest HIV infection rates, has launched a scheme to circumcise nearly half a million men to curb the spread the disease, the health ministry said Thursday.
The country hopes to circumcise 460,000 men over the next five years, after a series of studies found that circumcised men were two to three times less likely to contract HIV, said Janet Mwambona, a public health specialist in charge of the project.
"For the public health benefits of the preventive effect of circumcision to be realised, the Ministry of Health is supposed to cover 80 percent of eligible males in Botswana," she said.
Government is running television and radio campaigns to encourage men to visit clinics for safe circumcision procedures.
"All primary and district hospitals are currently booking clients and performing the procedure," added Mwambona.
About 50 healthcare providers, including 27 doctors have undergone training on surgical circumcision.
The rapid spread of HIV and AIDS once threatened the survival of the approximately two million people of the land-locked southern African country, until the introduction of antiretroviral drugs in 2003.
According to a 2005 UNAIDS report, Botswana's HIV prevalence among pregnant women between the ages of 15 and 24 has stayed between 35 and 37 percent since 2001.
The rate among the older pregnant women was last measured at 43 percent in 2003.