London, June 23 (ANI): Dozens of MPs from Zimbabwe are due to be circumcised in the parliament as part of a high profile anti-HIV drive in the country.
Up to 68 politicians are to voluntarily go under the knife to show their commitment to fighting the killer disease in the African nation.
The MPs are all due to undergo the operation at a makeshift clinic set up inside the parliament building in Zimbabwe's capital Harare.
The scheduled surgery is part of a high profile anti-HIV drive organised by the campaign group Zimbabwe Parliamentarians Against HIV and Aids.
Chairman Blessing Chebundo told the independent NewsDay newspaper dozens of MPs had already agreed to undergo voluntary testing and counselling sessions in parliament.
The response by MPs was very high and we are now doing group counselling sessions to prepare us for the main event on Friday, the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.
According to NewsDay, Chebundo said that all uncircumcised male MPs were being encouraged to undergo the operation, which is thought to reduce the risk of HIV infection by up to 60 percent.
He added that female parliamentarians had been invited to bring in their male spouses to take part in the novel public scheme.
The MPs' circumcisions form part of a major campaign against HIV in Zimbabwe.
Around a million people in the country are believed to be infected with the deadly sexually-transmitted disease, which if left untreated can lead to the break down of a patient's immune system.
The suggestion that MPs should sign up to the scheme was made last year by Zimbabwe's deputy prime minister Thokozani Khupe.
At the time many MPs spoke out aggressively against the idea, but dozens have since agreed to take part in the programme in the belief doing so publicly could help tackle the stigma of HIV.
The killer disease is controllable with drugs and Zimbabwe is one of several African countries which has seen its rate of infection decline.
However experts believe thousands of people remain at risk of becoming infected due to unsafe sexual habits and poor education about the disease.
The problem is widely believed to be exacerbated by a stigma around HIV which prevents some people from discussing it or even agreeing to have their status tested. (ANI)