Sir Roger Moore has donated the fee he earns from
appearing at the fourth International Eilat Chamber Music Festival
to a UNICEF program where Israeli expertise is used in training
doctors to perform male circumcision as a way of reducing AIDS
transmission in Africa.
Sir Roger Moore, was narrating Saint Saens' orchestral
character piece Carnival of the Animals at the festival, now under
way at the Herod's Forum hotel.
Some 80 musicians from around the world are taking part, performing
14 concerts in six days. Master classes are also being held.
Since 1991, Sir Roger Moore has been a UNICEF "goodwill
ambassador" promoting women's and children's health. He was
inspired to work for UNICEF by the late actress Audrey Hepburn,
herself a "goodwill ambassador," after being deeply
moved by India's poverty while filming a movie there.
In a phone interview with The Jerusalem Post, Sir Roger said
he had a growing interest in the importance of health and disease
prevention, and said his visit was meant to promote HIV awareness
"Prevention is the best cure of disease," he added.
He disclosed that he himself had been circumcised at the initiative
of his parents when he was eight.
"It was the unkindest cut of all," he joked. "But
really, it was for hygienic reasons. My two sons [now 42 and 35]
have been circumcised as well. They have never complained."
In the spring of 2007, the World Health Organization, UNAIDS
and UNICEF recognized "compelling evidence" that adult
male circumcision was an "additional important intervention"
that could reduce the risk of HIV transmission.
There are several biological explanations as to why circumcision
reduces the risk of infection.
Removal of the foreskin minimizes the ability of the AIDS virus
to penetrate the skin of the penis.
In addition, Langerhans cells and other special immunological
bodies are located on the underside of the foreskin and are targeted
by the virus. It may also be that tiny lacerations on the inner
surface of the foreskin during sex allow the AIDS virus easier
Sixteen months ago, a three-member Israeli medical delegation
traveled to Swaziland to teach local surgeons how to circumcise
The first of three such missions to Africa - teams have also
traveled to Kenya and Zambia, and will soon go to Uganda - Swaziland
was chosen to launch the campaign because its population had a
very low male circumcision rate and a 40 percent rate of HIV infection
- among the world's highest.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda have, through
their family foundation, donated $18 million to fund circumcision
among adult men in Kenya to fight the spread of HIV.
Sir Roger Moore said he had met Bill and Melinda Gates at the
UN and had been very impressed by their philanthropy to fight
He added that until recently, he had been largely unaware of
the role that circumcision can have in preventing the spread of
"I have since read up about the disease a lot, and I appreciate
Israel's input in prevention," he said.
The actor has visited African countries devastated by AIDS and
said he hoped a vaccine would soon be available.
In the meantime, abstention, safe sex, male circumcision and
anti-retroviral drugs were the only hope, he said.
Scientific studies have shown that male circumcision in sub-Saharan
Africa could prevent 5.7 million new cases of HIV infection and
three million deaths over the next two decades.
Male circumcision is also thought to reduce the prevalence of
Public health education experts at JAIP have warned that African
men and their female partners should not develop a "false
sense of security" and engage is high-risk sexual behaviors
that could neutralize the protection offered by circumcision.
Together with experts from UN organizations, they say that male
circumcision should always be considered part of a comprehensive
HIV prevention package that includes HIV testing and counselling
services, treatment for sexually transmitted infections, the promotion
of safer sex practices, and the provision of condoms and diaphragms,
with instruction as to their correct and consistent use.
Sir Roger arrived in Israel with his wife, Kristina Tholstrup.
It is her first visit to the country and his first in four decades.
"Although I received an open letter from some organization
advising me not to visit Israel, I didn't pay attention,"
he said, adding that he recommends visiting and already hopes
He was amazed at how the country - especially its capital - has
grown and developed.
He added that he had fond memories of a personal tour of Jerusalem
he had been given by its late mayor, Teddy Kollek, and was amazed
this time around by the view of the Old City.