The Swazi Government’s policy on pressing men to be circumcised to prevent HIV spreading is in tatters with the revelation that in Swaziland there is a higher HIV rate among men who have had the cut than those who have not.
And the figures have been known since 2007 – before the government’s circumcision drive started.
The Swaziland Demographic and Health Survey (SDHS) of 2007 says the infection rate for circumcised males is 22 percent while for those uncircumcised it is 20 percent.
The Swazi Government has wholeheartedly supported a drive to get men to undertake circumcision. It even went so far as to push for all new born babies to be cut. Over the past few months it has been backing the circumcision of schoolboys.
As I have written many times over the past years, there is no reliable evidence that circumcision reduces the likelihood of infection spreading. Instead, education about safe sex methods is by far the best way to stop the spread of HIV.
The figures, published yesterday (19 September 2010), show that the government’s policy is based on a false premise – that there is a provable reduction in HIV infection among circumcised men. The results of the SDHS do not show that. If anything they show the opposite, but one could make the case that at 22 percent and 20 percent respectively, the figures show there is no real difference one way or the other.
Will the Swazi Government now come clean and tell people that circumcision makes no difference and redouble efforts to get the message out about safe sex.