Circumcising infant boys could become part of Kenya's voluntary male circumcision programme, at present restricted to over-15s, if an ongoing pilot project in the western province of Nyanza recommends it.
June Odoyo, of the University of Manitoba project, told IRIN/PlusNews that the programme, which seeks to test the acceptability and safety of the procedure as well as the ability of medical staff to provide infant circumcision, had so far proved successful.
"The prospects for it are promising and it has proved viable," he said.
The pilot, which began in October 2009 and is due to end in October 2010, involves training nurses and clinical officers to provide infant circumcision at five government health facilities in Kenya's Nyanza province.
It is being conducted by the University of Manitoba under the leadership of the Nyanza Province Male Circumcision Task Force, which is part of the National AIDS and Sexually transmitted infections Control Programme.
Despite initial resistance from cultural leaders in the region, male circumcision has been widely accepted in Nyanza, with more than 110,000 men undergoing the procedure since 2008. According to Odoyo, acceptance for infant circumcision was likely to be more varied.
"While the acceptance among parents is reasonably high, it is also very variable depending on where the health facility is situated," he said. "Rural areas experience high cases of cultural resistance to the programme, while the acceptability in urban areas is comparatively high."
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Odoyo noted that infant circumcision was preferable because it used a special tool known as the Mogen Clamp, takes a relatively shorter time to heal and does not involve stitching as is the case for adult circumcision. Studies show a lower rate of complications with infant circumcision.
A 2010 Rwandan study published by the Public Library of Science found that infant male circumcision was highly cost-effective when compared to circumcision among other age groups.
Male circumcision has been shown to reduce men's risk of becoming infected with HIV through heterosexual intercourse by up to 60 percent. UNAIDS and the UN World Health Organization have issued guidelines on the scale-up of male circumcision for HIV prevention.
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