Swaziland is taking groundbreaking steps to fight HIV/AIDS in the country. Swaziland is one of the countries hardest hit by the HIV pandemic, so a bold approach is needed to stop the spread of the virus. As part of the country's national health strategy, the Government of Swaziland has embraced male circumcision as an HIV prevention strategy. Studies have shown that circumcision reduces a man's risk of getting HIV by 60 percent. Swaziland was the first country to step forward and pledge to circumcise 80 percent of Swazi men to help prevent the spread of HIV. This bold commitment was the result of strong support from the highest levels of the Swazi Government.
Last week, I was pleased to have the opportunity to join the Honorable Minister of Health, Benedict Xaba, for a visit to the Mankayane Hospital to observe efforts currently underway as part of the "Back to School Campaign." The campaign aims to circumcise more than 5,000 boys and young men within a three-week period. It uses the school holiday period as an opportunity to educate school-aged males, their parents or guardians, and their teachers about the procedure.
At the hospital, the United States supported the Government of Swaziland and the country's health system by helping to renovate a minor surgical procedure theatre so that it could more effectively provide safe services. I was pleased that the hospital was able to take advantage of this existing structure to support the campaign. And we saw that the theatre was already being put to good use as part of the Government of Swaziland's male circumcision program.
During the visit, I was incredibly impressed by the many brave young men who had come to the hospital to fight for a future for Swaziland that is free of HIV. Sixteen-year-old Mancoba shared his story. He said that he was circumcised because he wanted to protect himself and his future wife from infection. He encouraged other men to be circumcised.
To support men like Mancoba who want to help protect themselves and their loved ones from HIV, Swaziland will accelerate male circumcision efforts in the coming months under the Accelerated Saturation Initiative. This Initiative will help speed efforts to prevent HIV infections. Services are anticipated to begin at full-scale in December 2010 and last for 12 months. Approximately 50 full-time male circumcision service delivery teams will provide services every day so that Swaziland can reach its target of 160,000 male circumcisions. This will require a lot of hard work, and a new way of doing business together across all sectors of government. The United States is pleased to be supporting the leadership of the Government of Swaziland and men like Mancoba in this effort. We look forward to continuing our strong partnership with the Government and the people of Swaziland in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Together, we can turn the tide of Swaziland's HIV/AIDS epidemic.