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Monday, 20 September 2010


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.

1 comment:

Mark Lyndon said...

Swaziland is just one of six African countries where men are *more* likely to be HIV+ if they've been circumcised. The others are Cameroon, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, and Rwanda. Eg in Malawi, the HIV rate is 13.2% among circumcised men, but only 9.5% among intact men. In Rwanda, the HIV rate is 3.5% among circumcised men, but only 2.1% among intact men. If circumcision really worked against AIDS, this just wouldn't happen. We now have people calling circumcision a "vaccine" or "invisible condom", and viewing circumcision as an alternative to condoms. The South African National Communication Survey on HIV/AIDS, 2009 found that 15% of adults across age groups "believe that circumcised men do not need to use condoms".

The one randomized controlled trial into male-to-female transmission showed a 54% higher rate in the group where the men had been circumcised btw.

ABC (Abstinence, Being faithful, and especially Condoms) is the way forward. Promoting genital surgery will cost African lives, not save them.