‘Circumcision doesn’t reduce HIV spread’
THE SUNDAY MONITOR
Researchers say method only reduces transmission by 1.3% and not 60%.
Contrary to recent popular claims that male circumcision reduces HIV/Aids transmission by 60 per cent, a group of researchers has disputed the findings, saying the action will only increase the spread of HIV/Aids and can only reduce its transmission by 1.3 per cent at most.
Researchers Gregory Boyle and George Hill in a study published by Australia’s Thomson Reuters, base their argument on a recent male-to-female transmission of HIV study in Uganda, which showed that more women contracted the virus after unprotected intercourse to infected circumcised male partners.
They concluded that male circumcision is associated with a 61-per-cent increase in HIV transmission. “Across all the three female-to-male trials, of the 5,411 men subjected to male circumcision, 64 (1.18 per cent) became HIV-positive while among the 5,497 controls, 137 (2.49 per cent) became HIV-positive,” Boyle and Hill said.
“So the absolute decrease in HIV infection was only 1.31 per cent, which is not significant. Examination of epidemiological data shows that male circumcision does not provide protection against HIV transmission in several sub-Saharan African countries, including Cameroon, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Rwanda and Tanzania, all of which have higher prevalence of HIV infection among circumcised men,” they concluded.
Uganda rolled out medical male circumcision drive two years ago after the World Health Organisation-UNAIDS in 2007 recommended male circumcision as an HIV preventive measure based on randomised clinical trials in female-to-male sexual transmission in South Africa, Kenya and Uganda, which suggested that circumcision could reduce infection by up to 60 per cent.
Thousands of men have undergone the surgical pinch in Uganda. However, President Museveni in July last year castigated the call for male circumcision as a measure to curtail HIV/Aids, saying it was “diversionary” and called for abstienence.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Asuman Lukwago, yesterday, said he was not aware of the new findings but said should it be proved otherwise, the country will drop the method for other viable ones.
“We do not strongly condone it and neither do we dispute it. We work in a world of information and evidence and when it is proven otherwise we shall be alerted and we change our policies just like we did for malaria medicine,” he said.