London: In an unprecedented move, more than 170 Zimbabwean MPs and parliamentary workers have come forward to get circumcised to set a public example and defend themselves against catching HIV/Aids.
As part of the unique HIV/Aids campaign, the politicians will also be tested for the disease and offered counselling if the results come back positive, the Daily Telegraph reported.
The announcement, according to the report, follows the launch of the Zimbabwe Parliamentarians against HIV and Aids (ZIPAH) campaign last week which is aimed at bringing down the African country`s 15 per cent HIV infection rate.
All the 150 male members of the 175-strong group have committed to being circumcised, while its female members are encouraging their husbands and boyfriends to undergo the procedure, the paper said.
Blessing Chebundo, the group`s chairman, said ZIPAH members will also disseminate HIV and Aids information in their constituencies.
He said that many MPs had been against the move because if they did not come forward, it would be speculated that they were infected.
"We are beyond worrying about speculation in Zimbabwe, he said. "We have all been living with this for so long now and it is time we MPs showed the way."
The idea of a mass circumcision of MPs was first floated by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe, who cited evidence that circumcised men are 60 per cent less likely to get infected with HIV.
It followed a government campaign in 2010 to circumcise up to 80 percent of the country’s young men -- approximately three million people. At the time, many MPs were unconvinced, describing the idea as "madness" and "bizarre".
In neighbouring South Africa, President Jacob Zuma had gone public about being circumcised in 2010 in order to encourage his countrymen to follow suit.
The announcement followed a call by Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelithini, for the restoration of the tradition of circumcision -- though performed medically rather than by traditional practitioners.