Circumcised men are much less likely to get HIV, but if the
procedure is promoted as a way of preventing HIV men might think
they are immune to the virus.
MEXICO CITY -- There has been heated debate at the International
AIDS Conference about how male circumcision should be promoted,
following research that shows circumcised men have far less
chance of getting HIV.
The main fear is that, if promoted as a means of prevention HIV
infection, men will believe that they are immune to HIV after
"Will increased risk behaviour after male circumcision negate its
protective effects," asks Alvaro Bermejo of the International
Some cultures believe in a "whole man" and that circumcision
makes men "incomplete", while others say it reduces sexual
pleasure, acording to delegates.
But the evidence of lower HIV rates in countries where more than
80 percent of the men are circumcised is hard to ignore.
Three studies conducted in South Africa, Kenya and Uganda show
that circumcised me are between 50 and 60 percent less likely to
get HIV than uncircumcised men.
The latest research presented at the conference found that that
circumcision also lowers the risk of men getting the human
papilloma virus (HPV) that causes genital warts, and
HPV causes cervical cancer while the symptoms of trichomoniasis
for women are far worse than for men. Thus, "women with
circumcised partners run a lower risk of other infections, not
just HIV", according to the researchers.
Supreme Mfalapitsa fom EnGender Health South Africa called for
health officials to consult traditional and community leaders
before promoting male circumcision.
Aside from a rite of passage from boyhood to manhood, it could be
seen as a "blood sacrifice to the ancestors", said Mfalapitsa.
"In some cases, it is seen as enforcing male characteristics. The
foreskin represents female characteristics that have to be
removed," he added.
Men undergoing traditional circumcision were often told that they
were superior to women and should have lots of sexual partners,
In Swaziland and Kenya, large public campaigns are being run to
promote circumcision as a means of protecting against HIV. As a
result, there are already long waiting lists for the procedure.
However, South Africa has yet to decide on whether it will
promote men and boys getting circumcised.