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Bush Administration Proposes End of Funding of Anti-AIDS Program in Swaziland

Swaziland will soon see an end to the funds that was provided by the US administration towards the anti HIV program through // subsidized circumcisions to men in Swaziland.

According to the U.S. Agency for International Development it had only recently learned of the program and that it violated government policy supporting study of circumcision but not services offering the procedure.

Over the past 12 months around 300 men have been circumcised at the Family Life Association of Swaziland clinic in Mbabane as part of a ground breaking research program which has shown that circumcised men are less likely to contract HIV. So far it has been estimated that one out of three Swazis between ages 15 and 49 have been infected by HIV.

Dudu P. Simelane, deputy executive director for the Family Life Association said, USAID contributed $149,285 to the program last year but did not renew it for the coming fiscal year. She added that although the decision against renewing the funding that was part of the Bush administration's $15 billion anti-AIDS program, did not come as a surprise knew donors had not yet been found.

Simelane said,"It's best we try by all means to continue, but funding is the determinant," speaking from Manzini, Swaziland, where the group is based. "We wouldn't like to stop, really."

USAID, in its statement said the funding "should not have occurred, and there will be no further circumcisions performed with U.S. Government funds until the PEPFAR Scientific Steering Committee reviews data from ongoing clinical trials and considers any recommendations on male circumcision from the normative international Agencies." PEPFAR is the Bush anti-AIDS program.

Although the procedure and its medical benefits still remain controversial years of studies have shown that circumcised men have lower HIV rates compared to men who are not circumcised in spite of living in the same area. Scientists theorize that circumcision re moves the foreskin tissue that is most vulnerable to HIV infection and thereby also limit the spread of the virus to a man's sexual partners.

A South African experiment conducted among 3,274 men has reported that circumcised men were at least 60 percent less likely to contract HIV than those who were not circumcised. However most of the world's major health donors, including the Bush administration's anti-AIDS program, have stated that they will not pay for circumcision programs until those two studies release their results.

In Swaziland the program offered circumcisions to men for about $40 which is far less than the cost at private clinics and with news spreading that circumcised men may be less likely to contract HIV, long waiting lists formed for the procedure. However with the end of the U.S.-funded program fewer options appear to be left for Swazi men seeking circumcisions.

Adam Groeneveld, a urologist who has trained several doctors in circumcision techniques for the program, said, "That's not going to help. I don't understand why that has happened."

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