US envoy applauds VMMC outreach services

MBEYA: THE US Ambassador to Tanzania Michael Battle has commended outreach initiatives implemented by HJF Medical Research International (HJFMRI) for bringing HIV prevention services, including voluntary male circumcision (VMMC), closer to the community using a new mobile van clinic.

Ambassador Battle visited the VMMC mobile van last week at Mjele village in Mbeya District Council.

“I am thrilled to see you here, and I will always pray for you,” said the envoy …I will ensure my government will continue to support this initiative, and I am happy this mobile clinic van is reaching you,” he said.

VMMC is an evidence-based HIV prevention strategy. Research shows that being circumcised reduces the risk of acquiring HIV by 60 percent. VMMC also protects against other sexually transmitted diseases, such as HPV, which can cause cervical cancer in women.

James, a client who received VMMC services during the ongoing outreach, told the US envoy that with the availability of the van in his village, he was able to receive services he always dreamed of having. Distance to healthcare had previously prevented him from receiving these services.

The chairman of Mjele Village, Mr Emanuel Masebo, said his village has a population of 6,738, and the majority travel 30-50 kilometers to access healthcare services when they are in need. The availability of the VMMC mobile van has dramatically impacted many men who need the services.

“I am told every day more than 20 men are visiting the mobile clinic to access the services at their convenience, even at night. We wish the service could be prolonged for at least two to three months,” said Mr Masebo.

Dr Castro Masanja, acting VMMC Senior Advisor at HJFMRI, said peer educators travel around villages and mobilize men who are eligible for the services according to PEPFAR guidance and direct them to where the van is stationed in the village.

“Most of the people in this area are pastoralists, and with this van, we can reach them where they are,” said Dr Castro. We provide VMMC and other HIV prevention services including HIV self-test kits, condoms and PrEP services.”

From October 2022 through September 2023, more than 140,347 men aged 20 years and above received free VMMC services provided by HJFMRI in the regions of Mbeya, Songwe, Rukwa, Katavi and Ruvuma.

HJFMRI in Tanzania implements HIV prevention, care and treatment programs in the southern highland regions of Mbeya, Songwe Rukwa, including Katavi with funding from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), through the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) and in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health.

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