Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision: an entry point to HIV prevention and a priority for AHF Philippines

In Philippines by Fiona Ip

The Asia Bureau of AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has supported AHF Philippines’ partners, Family Planning Organization of the Philippines Metro Manila and Iloilo, to implement voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) programming in 2022. Nearly 560 boys have been circumcised and tested for HIV to date.

“In the Philippines, VMMC is a common practice and culturally accepted. VMMC is the complete surgical removal of the foreskin, which is usually performed on adolescent boys when they reach the ages of 10-to-14 years old and done during summer school break. This is to give ample time for healing,” said Nenet L. Ortega, Country Program Manager, AHF Philippines.

VMMC services in AHF Philippines is part of a holistic approach of prevention for boys. Apart from the actual VMMC service, clients are counseled and introduced to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education. Male and female fertility and reproductive systems are discussed, as well as hygiene, teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and other sexually transmitted infections. HIV testing and linkage services are also integrated in the activity.

“VMMC offers men substantial lifelong partial protection against the acquisition of HIV and a number of other STIs. Thus, the practice partially and indirectly protects women from HIV through heterosexual transmission,” explained Dr. Sarath Chhim, AHF Asia Bureau Chief. “VMMC also provides a unique opportunity to bring boys and men into health care as a point of contact in introducing HIV testing services and referrals for other HIV services, including treatment.”

Evidence from studies and medical interventions showed that quickly reaching many uncircumcised men with VMMC in strategically chosen populations may dramatically reduce community-level HIV incidence and save billions of dollars in HIV care and treatment costs. Because VMMC is a one-time procedure that confers lifelong partial protection against HIV, programs for adult men are vital, short-term investments with long-term benefits.

VMMC is a highly effective, relatively quick, and cost-savings intervention. The protection against HIV is substantial, though partial, and repeated treatment is not required to maintain the benefits. No other currently available HIV intervention provides this permanence of effect. It’s an important public health tool that deserves scale-up.

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