Friday, March 6, 2009

Male Circumcision Is No Silver Bullet in Combating HIV

by Whitney Welshimer, Akimbo via AlterNet.

Male circumcision is not full-proof. And it gives many men an excuse to avoid condoms, which puts their female partners at more risk.

About a year ago, my colleague was visiting IWHC partners in Cameroun and drove by this billboard promoting adult circumcision. Driving too quickly to do a double-take, she returned to the site later to confirm that she had read the the billboard correctly.

Three African studies in 2006 showed that male circumcision could significantly reduce a man's risk of contracting HIV from vaginal intercourse. "Significantly" in health study-speak might not mean what you think it means though. The studies, which examined nearly 8,000 men ages 18-24 in Kisumu, Kenya and Rakai, Uganda, found that male circumcision reduced men's risk of contracting HIV from vaginal intercourse by as much as 53 percent. These studies corroborated findings from an earlier study in South Africa, which reported reductions as high as 60 percent. A 50-60% reduction is not 100%. Not by a long shot.

But since these studies were published, sliced foreskins have replaced sliced bread as the next best thing. Bad puns and gory images aside, the avid support for male circumcision among public health professionals, funders, and the public alike has often failed to ask the simple question: What does this mean for women?

Read the rest. And be sure to check out the comments section.

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