An international public debate about male circumcision has been reignited by a San Francisco referendum – see an Australian report on this issue here – with anti-circumcision activists demanding that the circumcision of a minor be made a criminal act and treated as an assault. However, inconveniently for those who insist that circumcision is “barbararic” or comparable to the the terrible practice of female genital mutiliation, this week additional scientific proof of the possible medical benefits of circumcision revealed in a UN Announcement.
A first of its kind study indicates that circumcised men are less likely to become infected with HIV. The study was conducted in Orange Farm in South Africa over a period of three years, covering about 20,000 men over the age of 15 and resulted in a 55% reduction in HIV prevalence and a 76% reduction in HIV incidence in circumcised men. For the first time a study has proven that male circumcision is effective in preventing HIV at a community level. The results were announced on Thursday 20 July, in Rome at the 6th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention, and The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) released an announcement strongly welcoming the new results confirming that scaling-up adult male circumcision works to prevent HIV in men.
Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, called for immediate action and promoted circumcision as a preventive measure to help stop the spread of HIV:
“Science is proving that we are at the tipping point of the epidemic… Urgent action is now needed to close the gap between science and implementation to reach the millions of people who are waiting for these discoveries. Scaling up voluntary medical male circumcision services rapidly to young men in high HIV prevalence settings will help reach the 2015 goal of reducing sexual transmission of HIV by 50%.”
Medical male circumcision is listed as one of UNAIDS’ recommended HIV prevention options and is promoted and strongly supported in many African countries such as Kenya, which has provided voluntary male circumcision to 290,000 men over the past three years, Tanzania where the government plans to circumcise at least 2.8 million men and boys between the ages of 10 and 34 over a five-year period, and Swaziland where a joint campaign was initiated by the King and the Swazi Ministry of Health – with help from the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief – to provide voluntary male circumcision to Swazi men between the ages of 15-49 years.