AIDS-hit Swaziland leads African rush to circumcise

Nelson Mdlovu strides out of the small clinic with a spring in his step and a smile on his lips just minutes after being circumcised.

Mdlovu swallowed his fears to line up with nine other equally nervous men for the 30-minute operation. They joined the ranks of hundreds of Swazi men, after the U.N. said last year circumcision could cut the risk of contracting the HIV virus by as much as 60 percent.

With the help of training from Israeli surgeons, Swaziland now leads the African rush to embrace the procedure.

Swaziland suffers from the world's highest AIDS rates – nearly 40 percent of pregnant women and 19 percent of its 1.1 million people are infected. This is the equivalent of 56.6 million Americans, 11 million Britons, 212 million Indians and 248 million Chinese. Life expectancy has halved to 31 years in just a decade.

Mdlovu says he thinks circumcision “will change my life.”

But there are rumbling fears that men might fool themselves that circumcision gives them immunity and indulge in risky sexual behavior.

“It doesn't mean you are 100 percent protected,” nurse Prudence Mkhatshwashe tells men in the room. “You are just 60 percent protected, and you can get infected with the other 40 percent.”

“Use a condom always. Don't compromise,” she orders, before giving care and hygiene instructions. .

Universal male circumcision in sub-Saharan Africa could prevent 5.7 million new infections and 3 million deaths over 20 years, according to studies cited by the U.N.