Saturday, 19 July 2008

Kenya and Circumcision

The BBC story makes it look like most of them are rejecting a plan for free circumcision.

On the whole circumcision issue I'll readily admit that I am biased, so I'm going to try and be as neutral as possible.

Apparently some studies have shown that circumcision helps in the prevention of HIV/AIDS, an issue that is plaguing Africa at the moment.

The Luo Council of Elders won't sanction circumcision because it is against their culture.

What I like about this story though is not that they might be dooming themselves to an increased risk of HIV/AIDS (who the hell would want that?) but the views of the elders.

The BBC article states:

The elders are afraid that some men will think that being circumcised is an alternative to using condoms, which will put them at a higher risk of infection, our correspondent says.


But individual members of the community who want to be circumcised are free to do so, the council says.

The first snippet is something that I agree with. If you get people thinking that they will become superman and won't get any diseases by getting circumcised will probably ruin any benefit by increasing the amount of unsafe sex that they have.

This is a region where there are accounts of young girls being raped because of some supposed "cure for AIDS" if you sleep with a virgin. Then the girl contracts the disease and the bloke isn't cured.

Education is still one of the most effective methods for preventing transmission of HIV/AIDS. It doesn't matter if you are cut or not, or have that CD4 mutation, you still have a chance of getting the disease.

The latter snippet is good too because although they have said that it is against their culture for people to get circumcised, or to force them, they will let those that want to go ahead and get cut.

As opposed to certain Imams in Muslim countries issuing fatwas and wanting people that disobey to get punished.

1 comment:

Mark Lyndon said...

There are plenty of stories of men thinking that circumcision will make them immune. What's wrong with promoting safe sex? It's not as if HIV strikes people at random - you have to have unsafe sex with an HIV+ partner for circumcision to make an different whatsoever. If the HIV+ partner is the man, then circumcision makes it more dangerous, not less.

The studies which allegedly show a reduction in HIV among circumcised men are highly questionable. Not one of them was finished, despite the protective affect appearing to decline well below the oft-reported 65%, and several of the subjects disappeared. The fact that one study described circumcision as "comparable to a vaccine of high efficacy" seems to show clear bias. They appear to have been seeking a certain result. One has to wonder how many of the people promoting circumcision in Africa are themselves circumcised. Daniel Halperin is the grandson of a mohel, and seems to think that "maybe in some small way (he's) destined to help pass along (circumcision)" so his objectivity is questionable.

Other epidemiological studies have shown no correlation between HIV and circumcision, but rather with the numbers of sex workers, or the prevalence of "dry sex".

The two continents with the highest rates of AIDS are the same two continents with the highest rates of male circumcision. Rwanda has almost double the rate of HIV in circed men than intact men, yet they've just started a nationwide circumcision campaign. Other countries where circumcised men are *more* likely to be HIV+ are Cameroon, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, and Tanzania. That's six countries where men are more likely to be HIV+ if they've been circumcised. Something is very wrong here. These people aren't interested in fighting HIV, but in promoting circumcision (or sometimes anything-but-condoms), and their actions will cost lives, not save them.

Circumcised male virgins are more likely to be HIV+ than intact male virgins, as the operation sometimes infects men. The latest news is that circumcised HIV+ men appear more likely to transmit the virus to women than intact HIV+ men (even after the healing period is over). Eight additional women appear to have been infected during that study, solely because their husbands were circumcised.

Female circumcision seems to protect against HIV too btw, but we wouldn't investigate cutting off women's labia, and then start promoting that.

For a good summary of the case against promoting circumcision in Africa, see this link: